HackNTU Wants to Be Big, Really, Really Big
“It seems that everything we have been encountering since young already has a clear description written for us. There are even forewords for high school compositions,” said Tina Liaw, Chief Human Resources Officer of HackNTU, “but Hackathon is quite different. It gives you the topics and allows you to create. It might be difficult, but if you can find the answers, you would be surprised by the rewards you get.”
In 2013, a group of students from National Taiwan University formed HackNTU, and brought Hackathon from Silicon Valley to the NTU campus, and organized HackCourse and other Hackathon activities. They aim to explore and bring solution with technology. It’s their third year, and the theme is “Hack into the City.” President of HackNTU Kuan-i Lee said that this year’s participants will exceed a thousand, which increases the parameter and thus the direction has to change. “Our past themes leaned toward the integration of software and hardware. This year we will ignore the differences and hope that everybody will put their skills to good use, hence the broad theme. With the help from our collaborators this year, there will also be several sub-themes.” He said that two of their collaborators from the government, the Committee of Communications Industry Development and the National Development Council have no restrictions on this event. Collaborators of bussinesses like Foxconn focuses on mobile communications, and BoniO, led by the prestigious Professor Ping-Cheng Yeh, who’s also an advocator of Flip Education, focuses on distance education. All are interesting and challeging in its own way.
Experience from Silicon Valley: Creativity Has to Be Shared!
The HackNTU team visited Silicon Valley early this year and took part in Hackathon and the subsequent meetups. They said it felt like a “creative atmosphere,” even the local taxi drivers told them the place felt vibrant, and it was almost like they could see a new invention coming out every day. America is very open about starting new businesses. People are willing to talk about their new creations and ideas in the public. They believe that knowledge must be shared in order to make room for improvement, and they don’t worry that much about being plagiarized.
“There is a huge difference in scale as well. In Taiwan, there is hardly any Hackathon with over 300 people. We are hoping we can change that with HackNTU.” Said Director of Digital Marketing – Jane Lee. Meanwhile, the team also brought back a new system from Silicon Valley. In the past Hackathons, there was always an ending demo after hacking; this time they will design an “exhibition” system to give all teams the chance to exhibit their hacking results, and share their thoughts with everybody, even if their products are not finished. Only after that will ten teams be chosen to go up stage and introduce their products.
Stop Looking for a Job, Create One
The Entrepreneur Association, the Innovation and Incubation Center… NTU supports startups with so many of its divisions that it’s hard to tell them apart. This time HackNTU is working with the National Taiwan University Entrepreneurship Center, aka NTUEC. They help the team to “connect” with other startups, training schools or various hardware support teams.
“Vice Principal Liang-Gee Chen, and director of the Creativity & Entrepreneurship Program and the Entrepreneurship Center Professor Ji-Ren Lee both believe that the collaboration between industry and academia will encourage more future entrpreneurs in the NTU campus.” Ceo at Taidah Entrepreneur Center – RuFen Chen said, many students are just “looking for jobs” after graduation, the NTU wants these young people to have the alternative of “creating jobs.” After starting a series of startup-related courses, they realized that education is not enough. You need to know the market and the products, you need connections and funds, exactly the things most young people lack. Therefore in 2014, the NTUEC came in, to bring together resources from inside and outside of the campus, making connections between the students and the industry.
Besides network resources, the Entrepreneurship Center also runs NTU Garage, a soothing working space for creative teams. What’s different from the Innovation and Incubation Center is that the NTUEC helps startups in their “birth stage.” Miss Chen said many of their occupants are not yet registered companies, and NTU Garage will not charge them rent. There are no restrictions in what kind of business you run. Occupants are chosen for their creativity, potentiality and feasibility. Currently there are quite a few occupants in the NTU Garage. There’s a team that makes products for the elderly Mabow; a team that helps you experience and share what it’s like to be homless City Wanderer; a community dedicated to female athletes Good Time; and a team that integrates software and hardware for easy exhibition Loopd.
Find the Right Questions, Not the Best Talents
Do you have know coding to join the HackNTU team? Jane told us, that she herself could not code, but it’s inevitable to work with people who do, and she hopes to learn from people with different backgrounds through Hackathon. Activity planner Eric said that, everybody is able to invent something. You don’t really need a certain ability to carry out an idea. Which is why he joined the team, so that he could create new things with help from the crowd. Vice organizer Wilson believes that an international massive event like Hackathon is a win-win and positive opportunity for everybody. The school, the industry and even the government all provide what they are good at, and take what they need. It’s helpful for the advancement of our society.
Kuan-i said that, to them, the best part of the event is not the ending demo by the ten chosen teams, it’s the entire event. “From equipment rental, introduction, training, to matchmaking of the participants and the companies, and making them interact, every part is relevant. This is exactly the reason I’m in the HackNTU team.” He also told us, Hackathon does more than judging, and finding the right questions. It is crucial to solve problems by yourself.
Want to Change, Make the Change
HackNTU will stay the way Hackathon has always been and keep up the creative spirits. They also said, once they have all the resources they need and have become more experienced with everything, there might be even more Hacking events for each sub-topic every season. The Hackathon started from a simple idea and has evolved into various subjects, and collaborated with different businesses. There is a biomedical Hackathon that focuses on biomedical technology, held in the Institute of Biomedical Engineering of NTU; there’s also a g0v hackathon that deals with civil rights.
The Hackathon does not aim to “make a product that sells,” though many products that were “Hacked” have been put to good use, for example the Windows App Hackathon from last year held by Microsoft, has picked an app I Love TV 8 by the Taiwanese champion team to be available in the Windows Store, and the team can keep competing with other developers from the world. The campus Hackathon might not be able to provide participants clear business strategies like those held by big companies, but it can still do some matchmaking between those creative teams and the businesses, so their creations don’t go to waste. It is also a great opportunity for businesses and startups to recruit new talents. One last thing, hacker or not, you should really go to this exhibition and see for yourself what amazing ideas these young people are implementing to make the world a better place.
中文版連結Cover photo: PanX