The great Swiss hackathon

1st July 2019

Following the success of our Hack for Good 2 event in May, we were invited to film AKKA Technology’s debut hackathon for their engineering programme AKKAdemy. Two return flights to Switzerland later, and we were on our way to quite the learning experience for our media team and Studio Republic itself.

AKKA’s offices in Geneva triggered thoughts of a Black Mirror inspired office design on first impression, with small attention to gizmos and gadgets in abundance against slick minimalist design. We weren’t sure exactly what to expect, so we were prepared to embrace anything that this experience could teach us. And teach, it did.

Sustainable Mobility hacks in Europe

The event was themed on Sustainable Mobility and was partnered with the Open Geneva programme, shedding light on a whole area of sustainability which we, at Studio Republic, have spent less time exploring. Whilst we do commit to and explore all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals, in our day to day it's not yet been possible for us to work on each goal as in-depth as we'd like. That's where the AKKAdemy was an incredible experience for both SR and the AKKA participants. The group were looking into the breadth of the mobility spectrum: from train routes to hydrogen buses across the Swiss borders to an electric bicycle scheme in Geneva. Stretching to also look into how technology could counteract neurological conditions which affect our own personal mobility.

Teams were compiled of 6-8 curious minds from across Europe, each bringing a variety of experience and skill to the table. The core of the participants were engineers with a variety of expertise and years of experience, all with a limited knowledge of the sustainable mobility industry prior to the hack event. They shared a mutual thirst to learn together between fellow engineers, British filmmakers and representatives from local universities, groups and the Open Geneva programme itself.

The questions raised for each team to solve were focusing around Geneva’s thriving position as a sustainable city, looking into how the city can continue to innovate and encourage residents and tourists to support the mobility schemes. Each question was using Geneva as a trial - the group were aware that these ideas and solutions could be applied to any city internationally, and that the contribution of mobility to the climate crisis was the same in every language. The focus was not put entirely on the need to change because of a crisis, but the need to change to help us live better. AKKAdemy wanted to focus their terminology and statements on positivity and innovation as opposed to regression and concern - and this carefully crafted delivery of the event was clear in the optimism and cheer of all attendees.

Their passion for learning is not just a tagline

Within moments of talking to any member of the AKKA group, their love of learning and growth is clear. They use words such as “curious” often, embracing their company ethos with everything they do. The hack event itself was an amalgamation of nationalities and specialties, each individual eager to see what they could learn and teach each other person. The sincerity was clear, and there was a true endearment behind their hunger for knowledge and growth.

Technology for good

AKKAdemy’s hackathon was a raw and up close opportunity to see how engineers and the world of science were embracing technology’s endless capabilities for good.

Each individual at the hack event had the same idea - applying their knowledge and industry experience to create a solution to a problem regarding sustainable mobility. United by a heartfelt cause, the rooms were swarming with a desire to create or develop a project which will make a difference. One project looked into the introduction of hydrogen buses in Geneva, another used a vibrating belt to act as a visual guide for those who experience limited visibility. They opened our eyes to the developing sciences being used to create a more sustainable world, and we haven’t closed them since.

It’s all about the maps

The word ‘map’ was thrown around as an alternative to a lot of terms, which we couldn’t help but wonder if it had been a mistranslation. Turns out, it wasn’t.

‘Maps represent exploring, a need to find an answer, an investigation. The term “maps” makes us more inquisitive as individuals, makes us bond as groups. The simple change in vocabulary has an impact on our mentality and our ethos.’

Well, consider us a changed team. Out go the to-do lists, in come the action maps.

Sustainability is the same in every language

It is common to see bottle recycling schemes across the continent, and we are increasingly aware of international marches and protests relating to climate change - but there was an extra dimension to experiencing the emotions of other cultures to climate change when simply talking over a coffee machine. We had a German, a Swiss, a Pole, a Frenchman, a Greek, a Cypricot, a Belgian and a Brit all united in their discussions on a shared topic as if old friends and not strangers across borders.

There was sure understated beauty in the peace that came from such a mutual fire, and that even with language barriers we understood each others motivations and reasoning.

It’s fair to say that we caught the European hack day bug, and can’t wait to see where we can go next. If you’re interested in working with us for a hack day, whether it’s to help organise, attend or film, then email us and let’s be creative for good.