Entrepreneurial Institute

Collaboration and Innovation Lead to Success at Hackathons

NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering students, Robert Wen, along with Xingyu Gu, Wei Gu, and Hanxiong Wu, won the Best Innovation award in the recent Create a Better NYU Hackathon with a 3D navigation application which uses augmented reality technology.


As we sat down and started brainstorming what to build at the Create a Better NYU Hackathon, Xingyu suggested we try working with augmented reality technology. After the idea was planted, the team started to discuss how AR technology could make life easier and create a better NYU. We started to refine the idea into a mobile application for 3D campus navigation and ended up creating two main features: the '360 degree view' and 'Bobcat navigation'. With '360 degree view', users can virtually view surroundings from a real-time camera. When virtually looking at a building, if there are ongoing or upcoming events inside, the building would be highlighted. By clicking on the highlighted building, the events would be listed with time and location details. 'Bobcat navigation' would be triggered once a campus destination is selected. Once selected, an optimal route would be calculated and you could even check your surroundings with the camera view. Once the camera is pointing to the right direction, the Bobcat will show up in front of the user and lead the way to the destination.

While working together to quickly build the app, the team learned a lot about what makes a team truly great.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration creates opportunity.

I do not think we would have won the Best Innovation award if our team had been comprised of four Computer Science majors, four Integrated Digital Media majors, or four graphic designers. It was because we all come from different backgrounds with different skill sets that we made such a good team. Without Xingyu, we would not have even thought to use Augmented Reality. Once that seed was planted, it took the individualized skills of each team member to great a winning app. By leveraging the unique expertise from each individual, we successfully transformed our idea to a viable prototype.

Curiosity and innocence clear the way for bold and innovative ideas.

Our past experience dictates the potential risks we perceive with an idea. This devil on our shoulder leads us to discount and ignore some possibilities from the get-go. When these preconceived ideas of risk and cost are not holding you back - such as when you are trying something for the first time - you're prime for an innovative idea. For example, I knew nothing about 3D modeling before this hackathon. During a casual brainstorming session, I casually proposed we use a Bobcat as the icon to lead users around campus. I had no idea that creating a 3D model of a Bobcat would take almost half of our designer's time during the hackthon. In the end, when we heard the audience's positive reaction to out demo, we knew it was worth it - but if I had known the risk from the get-go, I may have never proposed the idea. It was my innocence that lead to risk-taking and innovation.

Our goal for the navigation app was to make it an integral part of the traditional NYU campus map. By scanning a QRcode on the corner of the existing NYU maps on the sides of buildings around campus, the app would bring the user into a 360 degree view. Our app serves as a perfect aide to the traditional 2D wall map.

I would like to encourage everyone - regardless of whether you have coding skills or not - to attend future Hackathon events. Hackathons are not just about coding. Innovative ideas are the focus and diverse backgrounds bring more possibilities that could help create a better NYU!

Here is the demo video of the app we created:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7PbJ52MfQs]