Hackathon at the Materials Research Exchange (MRE) Exhibition shows the way to reduce time and costs of social housing

Posted on: 11/11/2022

Within a unique Hackathon event, student teams at Materials Research Exchange were faced with the Challenge to provide a significant change to the speed and cost of constructing Social Housing in the UK, combined with greater use of sustainable materials, and with reduced energy cost. Not an insignificant problem to solve!

Students were drawn both from different disciplines and universities, and exposed to the knowledge pool available at the recent Materials Research Exchange (MRE) Exhibition held in London. Teams were encouraged to talk to Exhibitors and Delegates, but underpinning the Challenge, they were given just 24 hours to develop and deliver a presentation to share with a judging panel.

Combining the interdisciplinary thinking of Architects, Product and Industrial Designers, Design engineers and Materials Technologists, the Student Teams each provided a deep insight into meeting the needs of the brief.

Organised by the Materials and Design Exchange (MaDE), on behalf of Innovate UK and the Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge, (TFI), the winning team from the judging process then provided a reprise of its Challenge Solution to the delegates attending the MRE event.

Commenting on the outcome, Bernie Rickinson, the lead organiser for MaDE, confirmed, “The Hackathon provides a really useful vehicle to draw out that strength of pan discipline thinking and vision from young people. The quality of team working was truly amazing to see, and the presentations were not only professionally delivered, but were also rich in new ideas”.

Sarah Connolly from the TFI (Transforming Foundation Industries) Challenge who sponsored the Hackathon commented on the depth of analysis that had emerged from such creative thinking. “To have collected and discussed such a range of constructive ideas in such a short period of time was great to see, but it was their innovative, creative thinking to meet a real and current societal problem that has even inspired our own thinking”.

Presentations from the student teams will now be collated into a combined report, and the Hackathon model has not only demonstrated a capability for innovative focus, but also a valued delivery mechanism for the professional development and team building experience of students.

Further information

MaDE — John Bound

Materials and Design Exchange (MaDE) challenges material scientists to consider applications and provides designers with material and making options, thus turning ideas and technologies into products the market wants. MaDE is led by a partnership of leading academic and industry institutions, including the Crafts Council, Innovate UK KTN, Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining, Institution of Engineering Designers and the Royal College of Art. Visit made.partners for more information.

TFI — Sarah Connolly

The Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge is a £66m 5-year programme, delivered by Innovate UK, which aims to transform the UK’s Foundation Industries (metals, paper, glass, cements, ceramics and chemicals) by making them internationally competitive, securing more jobs throughout the UK, and growing the sector by 2024 in an environmentally sustainable way. Transforming foundation industries challenge – UKRI

Quotes from participants

Materials Science & Engineering student:

The hackathon was a great opportunity to see how design and materials science can work together and I really enjoyed meeting students from various backgrounds and seeing how everyone looks at a problem in a slightly different way. I am committed to working in the field of renewable energy and sustainable development and would like to do this from an industry perspective once I graduate.

Service Design student

The charm of Hackathon is that you need a day or two to exchange ideas with different people in a new interdisciplinary team and get hairy, bold goals close to being realized.

In this 24h hackathon, I met the cutest people and it was undoubtedly a very pleasant experience. During this period, we communicated with students from different colleges about their projects of sustainable materials and their application proposals to understand the most innovative research directions in UK, application scenarios and commercial feasibility.

After that, we summarized the insights of different materials, kept in mind the theme of the contest, and clarified what the better future we want to build is and for whom. Also, do as much validation as possible to demonstrate the viability of our problem, customer, solution and business model.

What I learned:

Something hard:

In addition to demonstrating the existing market size and income research basis, it is necessary to analyse future trends and potential market size growth, but more importantly, verify whether the existing first batch of possible users will be satisfied by testing; It is important to demonstrate research and trend analysis in presentations that have verified the usability and reliability of the solution, with appropriate emotional design attached.

Something soft:

During the hackathon, I met very friendly teammates and organizers, the team atmosphere made me feel comfortable and safe, and from them I learned how to connect with people quickly and how to balance everyone’s perspective with the overall perspective of team development.

Product design student

I enjoy learning about new materials and how they can be implemented into products to maximise its function. I thoroughly enjoyed working in a team collaboratively and meeting new people from different backgrounds. Speaking to experts at the fair about sustainable energy resources was very insightful for our social housing brief.

24 hours isn’t a long time, but I think it was great because it shaped our final concept quickly. Overall, I would recommend the Hackathon to everyone who enjoys a fun challenge. I enjoyed the Social Housing Hackathon because it was an opportunity for me to learn new things about social housing, meet people from different backgrounds, and work with others on a project that could potentially change people’s life.

Architecture graduate

I enjoyed the Social Housing Hackathon because it was an opportunity for me to learn new things about social housing, meet people from different backgrounds, and work with others on a project that could potentially change people’s lives.

I really enjoyed meeting and working with other ambitious students with diverse experiences, and everyone was extremely helpful and supportive. Moreover, if we had a problem there was always someone to ask for assistance – meeting mentors and speaking to multiple people about our solution helped us to step out of our comfort zone in order to better understand the actual value proposition of our solution.

Overall, it was a great experience to work on this project and meet so many new people.

We had lots of fun brainstorming ideas and coming up with solutions to problems we encountered along the way. It was also very helpful to discuss our ideas and get feedback from each other.  We also got to know each other better and share experiences and knowledge gained throughout the Hackathon.

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