HOST2HOST: DigiEduHack 2019 TEC de Monterrey
Meet Ján Rehák, Professor at the Department of Entrepreneurship at TEC de Monterrey and co-organiser of the DigiEduHack 2019 TEC de Monterrey
In this series of interviews, we give the floor to DigiEduHack 2019 hosts so they can share their experiences, success, insights and give tips and tricks on the best ways to run a digital education hackathon. In this episode, meet Ján Rehák Professor of Department of Entrepreneurship at TEC de Monterrey, and co-organiser of the DigiEduHack 2019 TEC de Monterrey, Mexico.
Jàn, very happy to have you here. Can you let us know how you got involved in DigiEduHack last year?
We heard about DigiEduHack through a late call by our colleagues from the Università di Torino. Simona Grande, who invited us during a summer school, told us about the initiative. And we decided to jump on board. We joined in late August 2019, for an event scheduled to happen on the 3rd of October 2019. We had about just a month to plan, organise, roll out and recruit. It was kind of a sped-up process. It was the first time that we would organise such a hackathon. So we took the whole experience as a pilot, so we could exert a kind of start-up mindset applied to an event.
Luckily we had a lot of fo help and mentoring both from the Università di Torino who have extensive experience of organizing hackathons and from local and national Mexican experts. We chose the “Emergent technologies” theme and we narrowed down our challenge to redesigning the campus to be a smart campus. We had a lot of people from TEC de Monterrey that actually got involved, from the librarians to experts to researchers and professors. We organised the hackathon in the library where we stayed overnight. It was a fantastic experience. We also had access to experimental rooms where participants could access to test new tech like VR sets and that has also been a fantastic creative boost for all.
Team mentoring has been crucial in the success of the event (photo: TEC de Monterrey)
Retrospectively, how would you qualify your DigiEduHack 2019 experience as a host?
It was really a first for us: we had very little time to prepare, very little staff, very little budget. But we love it. And the participants loved it. This is why we are here again for 2020! One of our teams actually won a global award, so we are super proud of that! This also contributed to putting the event in the limelight here in Mexico and increased the notoriety of TEC de Monterrey nationally.
"This year, we go big."
What will you do differently for 2020?
This year, we go big. We raised so much interest from last year experiment that we decided to open our 2020 event to schools and campuses from all over Mexico. Because we will be online, this year is very different. We target at least hundred of participants, with a broader reach than last year: we will recruit among 100 000 students spread in 30 campuses. That’s a huge step from last year where we only had one campus involved. We also had more time to sit and plan the event. Because we will aim at recruiting such a big amount of participants, we have to be much more prepared than last year. Last year was really stressful for us organisers, as everything was totally last minute. We were just three or four people running the event and that was a bit tight. This year we have a much bigger organising team and that makes a huge difference: we have more experts at all levels.
We had also time to identify relays that would spread the word about DigiEduHack 2020 within the schools and campuses. And that worked super well. There is already a lot of buzz around the event, and we can feel things bubbling up. That’s really positive. We decided to stick to the emerging technologies theme, with a challenge revolving around redesigning the education for the post-pandemic world, using emerging technology. We have a quite broad challenge because we want to give some freedom to our participants. We also designed very differently the mentoring process: last year we had done a speed-mentoring session that worked pretty well, but we wanted something more meaningful for 2020. We will have one mentor per team during the whole event.
Our mentors are all experts in entrepreneurial processes and/or creative processes and their mission is to help the teams steer in the right direction. We also opened up our keynote speakers range this year, and we will have some really cool inspiring people from all over the globe that will connect virtually with the participants. This year, we are structuring the responsibilities in a more evenly shared way, with sub-teams taking responsibility for specific areas. We have for example a team in charge of the mentors, a team in charge of the speakers, and so on. It works like magic: You can see the implication of each sub-team, and things move forward in a totally fluid way.
"We wanted something more meaningful for 2020. We will have one mentor per team during the whole event."
Do you particularly focus on something for DigiEduHack 2020?
Yes, definitively: the experience for the participants. We want to make our DigiEduHack 2020 as smooth, fun and engaging as possible, so the participants not only learn, but also hack and create but get this little extra thing for us: they should be entertained, they should be able to broaden their network, engage with speakers and mentors. This is super important for us this year and we do focus a lot on this. It’s gonna be a lot more challenging to achieve this in an online event, but I think we will manage.
A TEC de Monterrey team in the early stages of the 2019 DigiEduHack in Santiago de Querétaro (photo: TEC de Monterrey)
What do you plan to onboard and engage with your participants?
The plan right now is to organize a very short pre-hack session for both designing/creating the teams and giving the participants a little bit of context. We want to have ready-teams when the hackathon starts, so we don’t lose too much time and so that all participants can be focused only on the challenge. We also have managed this year to integrate our DigiEduHack event as a non-compulsory component of the curriculum of some students, in something we call “innovative semesters in entrepreneurship”. This tells you how much serious, eager and involved we are! We also have connections with incubators and accelerators for the follow-up of the winning solutions. So we are quite ready this year!
"Stay focus, work hard but also have a lot of fun organizing your DigiEduHack."
What tools are planning to use to run your DigiEduHack 2020 event?
The technical architecture is still kind of a work in progress. We’re testing a few alternatives for the kind of management system, so to say. I mean, we’ll be using definitely Zoom, we’ll be using either Slack or Discord – that’s what we’re testing still –, and we’ll be definitively using Miro. Why? Because since March we’re totally online and we noticed that combining Zoom and Miro works really well. The cherry on the cake, Miro is offering huge discounts for educational institutions! Regarding Discord, we have an expert in the team who is setting up the server for us, but that’s still an unknown path, at least for me.
But Discord is part of this new arsenal that we would like to use in order to maintain a high degree of engagement with our participants and to differentiate the hackathon from remote teaching. Our students have been so much on Zoom lately that for the hackathon we want to provide a totally different experience with totally different, cooler and more fun tools. And Discord can help us achieve this, I think.
A participant pitching (photo: TEC de Monterrey)
What happened to the 2019 global winning team from TEC de Monterrey?
Did you manage to implement their solution?
Well, actually the solution still is in the process! There have been some restructurations within the winning team, as some team members decided not to follow through, but the team leader basically is still working on the solution. There has been even already contacts with some potential clients for further developments, so that’s something very positive. The team members still work with the entrepreneurial programme here at the university, where the solution has been incubated and nurtured. Actually, the fate of this winning solution has been a great teaching for us hosts: this year we will be much more clear when it comes to intellectual property rights, follow-up and development of the solutions.
Anything you would like to share, Ján?
Just to wish luck to all hosts! Stay focus, work hard but also have a lot of fun organizing your DigiEduHack, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing you all on in a way or another. See you in November, or earlier on the Slack for hosts!
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