The first edition of hack.init(), China’s premier youth hackathon, took place over 24 hours July 8-9th with 300 Chinese and international students of ages 16-21 try their hand at inventing new hardware products through the use of Makeblock hardware and software platforms.
We talked to Zhou Yiheng from one of the student teams to hear about their first experience as hackers and the projects they created.
Why did you participate in hack.init()?
My classmates told me about the event and I thought it seemed like a really cool way to learn more about science and technology.
Where does the name of your team come from and who are your team members?
We called our team Cat Food because we all love cats. Our four members are: Zhu Yanqiao (hardware, team leader), Zhou Yiheng (hardware, software), Luo Zhongjin (products, software), Jiang Yukai (hardware, software).
Zhu Yanqiao (left), Zhou Yiheng (lower left), Luo Zhongjin (top right), Jiang Yukai (lower right)
What did you make during this hackathon?
We designed a shopping robot called Follow Follow. When a customer enters a shop, the robot is triggered and will follow the customer until they have finished their shopping. The customer can put goods in the robot’s shopping cart and quickly check out and pay by scanning the robot’s head, and this way avoid queuing.
Why did you choose to design this type of robot?
Because even though the online shopping is increasing in size every year, bricks and mortar is still the dominant part of retail and suffers problems of congestion and queuing which degrades the shopping experience. We want to use the sharing economy to solve this problem.
What did you use to build it?
Makeblock’s Ultimate 2.0 development kit along with DIY parts brought by our members.
What challenges or interesting discoveries did you encounter while working on your project?
In order to achieve intelligent follow, we first tried using the gyroscope, accelerometer and compass on the customer’s mobile device to provide the data, but it didn’t quite work out so we scrapped it. Instead, we used Makeblock’s Bluetooth module for positioning, which worked out well. It also let us use the Makeblock app to control the robot.
What was the best part about this hackathon?
When designing the product, we focused mainly on the user experience when working out the HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) system, and spent a lot of time working with a variety of sensors, which we learnt a lot from. We also found the Makeblock Ultimate 2.0 development kit to be great to work with, and the quality of the production was something everyone in our team found to be very high.
What do you think about becoming a hacker – what do you need to know, and why?
As long as you’re interested in learning about new technologies you can become a good hacker. When it comes to hackathons, we found that it’s not technology alone that help you succeed in building a good product, but you need good communication within the team and the ability to plan.
In addition to Team Cat Food, we also saw many other teams create very innovative products. Here are two selected teams:
A smart wardrobe that automatically arranges clothes based on the weather outside!
Rear vehicle detection system.
There is no better word to sum up the first edition of hack.init() than surprise! We were surprised at how creative and innovative these young hackers were and the level of their design and development skills. We’re already looking forward to next year and a new batch of creative thinkers and the products they will dream up!