Urban Flows Hackathon at Sheffield Technology Parks is a hit with participants

Urban Flows Hackathon at Sheffield Technology Parks is a hit with participants

Sheffield Technology Parks was recently the stage for showcasing some of the best creative talent in the city as coders, enthusiasts and experts came together for an all-day-Saturday event. The live hackathon, part of a competition led by the Urban Flows Observatory at the University of Sheffield in partnership with Sheffield Technology Parks, was held on Saturday 23rd November. Four teams worked against the clock to come up with winning ideas to help improve air quality and environmental impact in Sheffield

The purpose of the hackathon was to make use of the data collected by the Urban Flows Observatory from sensors monitoring air quality right across the city. It was an opportunity for people from the tech sector and other disciplines to get together to share ideas and experiment. Teams have now entered their ideas into the Urban Flows Observatory competition to win a prize from a total pot of £50,000. Successful ideas will be supported by the Cooper Project at Sheffield Technology Parks.

Sarah Lister, Project Co-ordinator for the event, said, “It was great to welcome so many participants to the event, each bringing an impressive array of ideas, skills, and experience to the table. Everyone was open to getting involved in all of the tasks set by hackathon facilitators Jag Goraya and Danny Antrobus, who ran a really tight ship to make sure that each team had equal opportunity throughout the day to experiment, develop ideas, and present them.”

Once the teams and ideas had been formed and experiments made, the afternoon was split into three sprints leading up to a pitch prep session and finally a show and tell, which was recorded for the judges. Three people from the Urban Flows Observatory were there throughout the day to answer questions and to see the final presentations from each team. 

We asked Patricio Ortiz, Research Software Engineer at the University of Sheffield, what he would most like to see come out of the hackathon event. He said: “Great ideas, that’s what we’re after. I think that the group of people that you managed to put together is very very interesting. I’ve seen some people who are very much into the subject of air pollution and also people who have a lot of expertise in computing and how to treat data. I think that’s extremely valuable.”

The format of the event encouraged people to share the challenges they came across throughout the day, and to talk about potential solutions and follow-up work. Event facilitators Jag and Danny had set up a digital space on Slack for teams to collaborate, share assets/links, and to reach out for help.This worked really well, both during the event and afterwards. 

There were three dedicated spaces within Sheffield Technology Parks for the teams to spread out with their laptops, with food and drinks on the go throughout the day. Project Co-ordinator Sarah Lister highlighted the quality of the refreshments as a big help:  “Thanks to The Food Works for supplying breakfast, lunch and an evening buffet - it was much appreciated by everyone.”

Tom Wolfenden, Chief Executive of Sheffield Technology Parks, said, “We had a lively and exciting day at the hackathon event which received positive feedback from participants. We hope to see them returning to Sheffield Technology Parks as part of our Cooper Project and taking their next steps towards the overarching Urban Flows mission supporting the creation of sustainable, healthy, happy cities.” 

Laura Bennett, Projects and Partnerships Lead at Sheffield Technology Parks, who helped to set up the opportunity with the Urban Flows Observatory, added: “The aim of the event was to help generate tangible outputs. We’re hoping that these ideas will get to the next stage of the competition leading to potential commercialisation - that would be absolutely brilliant.”

Follow updates on Twitter @UrbanFlowsObs and @SheffTechParks. If you have any comments or questions please send them to hello@shefftechparks.com or urbanflows@sheffield.ac.uk

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