Music-streaming earphones idea wins first DCU student hackathon

21 Apr 2015

Eoghan Stack, CEO DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs (far left) and Prof Brian MacCraith, president of DCU (far right) with Ceol, the winning team from Hack DCU

Earphones scooped the top prize at the weekend-long Hack DCU event, which saw teams of students pitch and develop ideas to make life easier.

A campus-based bike rental scheme, portals to help you find meal deals, events and work, a system to improve access to patient medical records and earphones that set you free from your mobile phone.

These are the ideas that grew from the Hack DCU event last weekend, where teams of students got together to research the markets, build prototypes and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. 

On Friday, students queued up with their initial ideas at the DCU Innovation Campus, which were whittled down to seven teams. They then got to work for the weekend, inspired by mentors and workshops and with 3D-printing facilities from LayerLabz and, of course, plenty of food. 

Making life easier

Many of the concepts centred on student needs, including affordable food. One team developed an online portal to help students find meal deals that suit them, while another developed software to recommend events that you might want to go to. 

Another ‘hack’ was a clever scheme to allow researchers to outsource labour-intensive tasks such as data entry and translation to students at the university, rather than employing outside organisations to do them. 

And for students looking for work placements (which are integrated into many of DCU’s courses), another team developed an online system to make it easier for students and employers to find each other. 

Then if anyone falls ill, a patient-centric ‘medical passport’ outlined by another team would make it easier for healthcare professionals to access the relevant medical information quickly from their records. 

And the winners are…

But on Sunday, after the teams pitched their work to a team of judges, the runner-up was announced as CycleLogical, a campus-based bike rental scheme that lets students use the bikes for up to three hours at a time, as pitched by Emmanuel Odereye, Alix Frank, Opeidlh Elsheikh, Chigozie Anyanwu and Mikey Kinsella. They won €750, sponsored by DCU Invent.

And the winner was the Ceol team of Eoin Ó’hÓbáin, Kevin Harrington and Cian Butler, whose idea was to make wireless headphones with built-in music streaming capability, so the user can listen to music on the move without using their phone. 

The Ceol team particularly impressed the judges by building a working prototype during the hackathon, and their efforts won them €1,000, the chance to pitch for a place on DCU’s student accelerator, UStart, and the opportunity to attend a Codemotion event in Milan later this year. 

Process of innovation

Prof Brian MacCraith, president of DCU, handed out the awards and told that each of the teams demonstrated a clear appreciation of the innovation process, beginning with a clear articulation of a problem or opportunity and then applying creative minds to finding solutions that can be translated into practice.

“The event exceeded all expectations for us, with all seven teams producing – and in many cases demonstrating – exciting innovations that have real business prospects,” he said. “From the student perspective, the weekend experience was essentially condensed, experiential learning of what innovation is truly about. This is learning that cannot be achieved in the lecture-room or laboratory.”

MC for the award ceremony, Eoghan Stack, CEO of DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurs, told he hoped this would be the first of many such events. 

Hack DCU was organised by the DCU Ryan Academy under the Welcome Project, which is funded by the EU Commission under the Startup Europe initiative. 

The event was supported by four DCU student societies: Esoc (DCU Entrepreneurial Society), DCU Media Production Society, DCU Engineering Society and Redbrick (DCU Computing and Networking Society). Sponsors included Domino’s Pizza DCU, Nando’s, UniTuition, DCU Trispace and Red Bull.

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication