UNSW hackers join forces in effort to create a better world
May 18, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1172 articles)
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UNSW hackers join forces in effort to create a better world

While computer hacking generally conjures up dark images of computer-lit bedrooms, attempts at bypassing national security or even theft and extortion, students are using their coding skills in a series of “socially conscious” hackathons.

Cyber security enthusiasts have been competing in hackathons across the world for years, but the movement has now turned to university campuses with engineering, IT and business students using their hacking prowess for good causes: to help resolve issues ranging from climate change to the empowerment of women.

University of NSW engineering student Daniel Tam is one hacker using his computer talents to heal the world.

“It was my first time — my friend Joseph had been to one or two — but I’d never really thought about what hackathons could do until then,” he said.

Mr Tam, 18, and classmates, Joseph Harris and Darcy Small recently won the CSIRO 2016 Solar Hackathon, scoring a $4000 cash prize.

Hackers had 10 hours to find a way to help boost the renewable energy sector.

“We came up with an elaborate way to get people interested in their energy use and ways to curb it,” Mr Tam said.

Hackathons are also an opportunity for businesses to test new ideas and scout for tech-savvy ­talent.

UNSW Innovations’ Mary Liu said hackathons had helped female students at UNSW find their inner entrepreneur.

This month she ran the UNSW Fashionista Challenge — in partnership with Microsoft and online fashion retailer The Iconic — where students battled out the best fashion apps and customer testing. The Iconic also has offered jobs to students, showing how businesses can mine student hackathons for talent.

“They actually invited every team of students to present their ideas to their production development team and offered an entry-level opportunity to the winners,” Ms Liu said.

But she takes the most pride in the confidence boost the hackathon has given young women. Many are still in touch with her about their new hacking ideas.

“Hackathons are a fantastic platform, I’ll definitely be pushing for more,” the entrepreneur specialist said.

Mr Tam said these gatherings had a chance to make Australia a better place.

“You can’t solve all the world’s problems in 10 hours but hackathons bring lots of different people together to talk about issues — that’s the most important thing,” he said.

Source | TheAustralian