Tricontinental Hackathon at École Polytechnique
In March 2016, École Polytechnique has hosted students from the University of Tokyo and from Columbia University. During their stay on campus, the students from Japan and the USA partnered with students from l’X to participate to a unique cross-cultural experience: a 48-hour Tricontinental Hackathon sponsored by Valeo.
From March 16th to 18th, a Tricontinental Hackathon, which is a kind of marathon for software and hardware developers, was organised on École Polytechnique campus. Hosted in the Drahi X-Novation Center, about thirty students from the University of Tokyo, Columbia University and École Polytechnique, worked in teams of five to six during two days straight on a technological project defined in partnership with Valeo, sponsor of the event. Their goal: to create a product enhancing safety and comfort in cars, using the Internet of Things.
Three projects have emerged during this Hackathon. Taha Zinifi, Ingénieur Polytechnicien student at l’X and President of the Cabinet Start-Up, the student association dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship, participated to the project entitled SAM (Safety and Amenity Monitoring), a virtual personal assistant integrated to the car for detecting fatigue using a camera and biosensors. "This idea came to me because of a project on Computer Vision that I currently work on, whose applications could be used to improve driving safety," said Taha, who was in charge with Mael Tréan (X 2014) of the programming and management aspects of the project. Another idea that emerged during the Hackathon: "Asobo" is a solution to monitor the car's temperature in order to alert and avoid heat stroke in infants and children. A third group has imagined "CarStory", an external airbag system to protect passers-by in case of impact.
"The success of this event is to have enabled students from three different cultures and various nationalities to work together on such a short time," said Taha Zinifi. Language proficiency, varied trainings, work culture and different commercial sensitivity: the gamble was far from being won according to the student. "To set a target market for our product when Japanese, American and French do not show the same needs quickly becomes an interesting challenge!", said Taha, adding that "the difference turned into complementarity and the divergence of views has become a source of inspiration for the project." Beyond learning how to work in an intercultural environment, being hosted at the heart of the École Polytechnique entrepreneurial ecosystem was also a great opportunity for the students to exchange with the incubator’s entrepreneurs and team, including the fabmanager, and be mentored by experts of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program as well as professors from l’X.
An award ceremony celebrating the projects was organized at the end of the event, in presence of Jacques Biot, President of École Polytechnique.
This Tricontinental Hackathon thus strengthened École Polytechnique’s existing collaborations with Columbia University and the University of Tokyo while encouraging cultural exchanges between Japan, the US and France and supporting initiatives in favor of entrepreneurship and innovation.