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UTC Reading students win the Reading University Hackathon!

A group of Year 11 UTC Reading students won the highly regarded Reading University 24-hour student hackathon, competing against students from across the globe.

UTC Reading students, Ben, Oliver and Ilyas took part in the hackathon at Henley Business School. A hackathon is a programming marathon, where small teams put their ideas together to create something exciting in only 24 hours. 

The winning team said: “It was really exciting. The majority of our competition were university students, or international, so we were quite nervous, but put everything we had into it.”

“All teams were given an objective to invent something that would positively benefit communities. Within 24 hours, we all had to come up with the best idea and best implementation of that idea and present it back to everyone else, including leading industry professionals.”

“Once we got the brief, we started brainstorming and this led us to focusing on the environment. We thought about what technologies we had interacted with and that we could apply to it. We soon started exploring barcodes; the way the data is encoded in barcodes can tell you the country of origin of the product. Soon we found our idea. We wanted to create something that could tell you how far a product has travelled to get to you, and from there, to work out its carbon emissions.”

“Within 24 hours, we had developed a web application, programmed in Javascript, that allowed you to log on, scan the barcode of a product and it would decode it, send it to the backend and then work out country of origin, as well as your current location, work out the distance between the two and display it on google maps for visualisation.”

Oliver said: “From a business perspective, we knew we had to look at how this could be monetised. Our idea was affiliate marketing – when scanning the product and distance travelled, it would recommend similar products with a lower carbon footprint.”

“To develop this idea within 24 hours was tough; there was no time for procrastination. We stocked up on energy drinks and just focused. We work well under pressure, so used the time wisely. Before we even had our idea, Ben was setting up the back end server!”

Ben said, “I found out about this Hackathon through the Google Developer Group, which is a community in Reading that I am a part of. My contact, Andreas from Think Engineer, and the founder of the Reading University Hackathon, is also a member of that group and told me about the opportunity. We thought we may as well give it a go!”

“As well as winning the ‘code wizards’ award and being overall winners, we were also asked by the lead sponsor, BMI, to present our idea to their C-level, flying out their executives from USA to meet us! At the hackathon, we networked with them, and after we had presented, they contacted us to say congratulations on winning, we would love for you to come down to our office and present for 15 minutes. We heard about this on the Friday and they wanted us in there on the Monday! As our presentation at the Hackathon was 3 minutes, we had to build on it and we just kept rehearsing all weekend.”

“We got great feedback from our presentation. Not only were there C-level staff there, but BMI’s parent company Standard Industry also attended, and their Chief Technology Officer (CTO) asked if we had patented the idea, and told us he could help us to do this. They seemed really interested in what we wanted to do in the future; it was all really positive and an amazing opportunity.”

Ilyas is hoping to go into cyber security following his studies at UTC Reading and said, “After the presentation, I was able to get a meeting with BMI’s Head of Security. We spoke about the industry, how he got into it and possible internships in the future. It was a great opportunity for me to make this valuable connection and I look forward to what the future brings.”

Congratulations to Ben, Oliver and Ilyas for this huge achievement.

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