The Global Water Hack

Global Water Hack

The Global Water Hack was a hackathon to come up with a social enterprise to provide clean drinking water to rural communities in the developing world.

This hackathon was quite unique as we were given real data and technology prototypes to work with in designing our solution, rather than starting from scratch.

Our task was to find a way to use the mobile desalination system developed by the UNSW Chemical Engineering Faculty in a sustainable business model taking into account the realities in rural communities in India. It was a stark reminder of how lucky we are to be able to get clean(ish) drinking water straight from our taps.

A cross-faculty experience

Some icebreaker challenge before we got to the real stuff… yes that’s me in the grey top on the left. Source

I really enjoyed working with a diverse team from both engineering and business backgrounds as we leveraged each others’ strengths to come up with a solution that we were all proud of in the space of just four days. We really thought outside of the box and got around the constraints we were given with creative solutions.

Ultimately, our solution was to provide a highly flexible and affordable business opportunity by enabling the desalination equipment to be installed on a variety of existing vehicles, enabling entrepreneurs to have a second source of income whilst helping rural communities prevent renal diseases.

Key learnings

We should have spent less time working out the financials/details and more time on refining the pitch because this competition was really all about the pitch.

We had a really solid idea that our whole team was confident and invested in, but because our pitch was rushed at the last minute, I think we missed out on being able to emotionally connect with the audience.

If you fail to persuade with your pitch, it doesn’t matter how good the idea is.

There needs to be clear leadership and direction in a large team.

Our team was so amazingly good at taking initiative and getting stuff done independently, but this was detrimental to us because it meant that there were times when we were not all on the same page. Some of us even doubled up on tasks that others had already done.

I think a little more structure would have been beneficial. Nonetheless, we really worked to everyone’s strengths and could trust each others’ judgment in our areas of expertise.

A fruitful four days

Even though we didn’t win, I was so proud of all the effort that everyone in my team put in. These were possibly the most productive four days of my life… that’s what it felt like at the time, anyway. I think that the potential social impact of our ideas really motivated us to push forward even though we were all so tired! That and the free food.

Check out my other hackathon experiences here.

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