Following their first ever hackathon in April, the National Environmental Agency (NEA) has been quick to promote a second Clean & Green Hackathon in the span of a single year. The Clean & Green Hackathon offers inventive people from a variety of backgrounds, ages, and walks of life the opportunity to come together and create new ways of dealing with the environment – whether it’s recycling, air pollution, dengue control, or public cleanliness.
Over the course of 48 hours, 15 teams were challenged with coming up with innovative apps that could offer new and ingenious ways of approaching clean and green living. Sueanne Mocktar from the NEA, one of the senior organizers of the event, told me that there has been an increased interest amongst the general public in recent months in regards to recycling and other forms of green living. The purpose of the hackathon is, in her words, for “the community, as a group, to work together to solve problems and not just be too reliant on what the government can do.”
“Can do,” or “speaks about their ability to do?” There’s a big difference, isn’t there?
During the closing ceremony of the Clean & Green Hackathon, the teams presented their apps and ideas, all of which were intended to draw in the community and ensure that interest and participation would continue to grow. With their ideas to develop Singapore, they unconsciously helped their government declare to the whole world the country’s concern over development, cleanliness and sustainability of the environment.
No doubt, such kinds of hackathons are a great opportunity for the green island to secure investments from the nearby and local elite. In the end, the government makes a profit by taking taxes from sold property. Organizers of hackathons make some money from sponsors, while hackathon participants hold onto cherished hopes that they can be part of great changes – and hopefully win some awards along the way.
The team that ended up taking home the coveted prize of being the Clean & Green Challenge Winners was the ‘Recycle Bots’. They came up with a model of a comical recycling bin fashioned in the shape of a mouth, and which used LED lights to interact directly with the user. The general idea was that when a user would throw something away, the bin would light up either green (to indicate the product could be recycled), or red (to indicate the product could not be recycled). Not only that, when the user put in a significant amount of ‘green’ products, he or she would be rewarded with points for each correct item placed in the bin.
I had a chance to chat with the winning team, which consisted of members Michael Ong, Nicole Zhu, Tan Wei Hao, and Keith Teo. They conceded that it was a long process coming up with the final product; a lot of work, technical skill, and creativity were invested into producing what we all saw at the closing ceremony.
Keith Teo expressed the process and reasoning behind the Recycle Bots’ project, saying that certain behaviors in Singapore need to be changed in order to promote this idea of greener living. “We want something very simple, very intuitive, and that really impacts, really changes and makes changes from the beginning, then… is intuitive after that.”
The diversity of the team was definitely a brilliant example of the variety of participants who came forward this year to bring their ideas to life. Recycle Bots had a little bit of everything – from mechanical engineers and marketing professionals, to undergraduate students — and there was definitely a wonderful mix of varied creative minds at work within each group at the event.
As one participant stated: “It’s amazing to see what different mindsets and different perspectives can come up with to identify different problems, and [to] push these different problems towards different solutions.”
Sueanne Mocktar told me that the NEA is definitely looking forward to making the Clean & Green Hackathon an annual event, and with the possibility of the NEA getting behind some of the more promising apps to ensure they come to life in the real world, there is definitely a great deal of incentive for people looking to get involved next time around.
Let’s hope that more hackathons will be organized in the near future, thus providing platforms for more bright ideas to be spotlighted. And although such events are becoming more geared towards making money, they don’t stop us from thinking positively about the future – for once.
So it can’t be all that bad, right? Besides, with collaboration comes comprise and sacrifice.
Report prepared by Katie Collom