Tech giants open doors to Hack-a-thon winners

Tech giants open doors to Hack-a-thon winners

A creative solution to facilitating remote and rural learning saw five students win the tech trip of a lifetime to the mecca of start-ups and innovation, San Francisco.

Taking in tech luminaries such as Amazon Go, Google, Facebook, Uber and Intel, and start-up The Antipodean, the study tour followed the team’s winning entry in the 2019 Hack-a-thon challenge.

The 24-hour design sprint event challenged 130 multi-disciplinary students to work together to test their problem-solving skills in response to the theme, ‘Connected Communities’, focused on creating equality in education around the globe.

The winning team Boxby created a router-like platform that could provide rural and disconnected communities with easy access to education data without an internet connection.

Their solution saw the students granted unparalleled access to industry experience and connections during the study tour, facilitated by RMIT and industry partner Capgemini.

Capgemini Australia and New Zealand Vice President Amit Singhania said: “We live the RMIT University mantra of ready for life and work in our partnership, so it was without hesitation that we leveraged our industry connections to provide unprecedented access to tech giants in the heart of Silicon Valley for the winners as part of our Hack-a-thon sponsorship.” 

RMIT students visit Google offices in San Franciso RMIT students visit Google offices in San Franciso

Trip highlights included meeting lead designers for ‘Google Home’ to hear how they developed the product for market and taking part in an exclusive Q&A session with Uber’s lead engineers, including RMIT alumnus Ed Barwani.

Getting an inside view of the industry, and understanding how their skills could translate into jobs, provided a unique learning opportunity for the Bachelor of Computer Science students James Ng, Thang Pham, Isaac Keleher, Jia Jun Yong and Blaise Saunders.

“I’d never been to America, so that was amazing, and it provided us with so many opportunities to network, see what jobs are out there and plan for our future careers,” Saunders said.

“Listening to each presentation also drove home that personal branding and how you pitch yourself are key to career progression.” 

RMIT students and staff at start-up The Antipodean RMIT students and staff at start-up The Antipodean

Ng said the trip provided an opportunity to gain awareness about what your real strengths were while Pham came away with a greater understanding of the US start-up industry and insight into future trending technologies.

For Yong, learning what it took to work at companies such as Facebook, Google and Intel were highlights while Amazon Go made a big impression.

“I was amazed by how seamless and accurate the Amazon Go checkout process was; this is truly the future of retail,” Yong said.

Keleher had always dreamed of visiting San Francisco, where he was particularly impressed by one tech giant. 

“We learned Facebook regularly hold internal hackathons and have free food and a laundry service to maximise employee productivity," he said.

Saunders summed up the trip.

“It gave us so much to think about and I’m still processing what we learned and figuring out how to implement it into my career," he said.


Story by: Diana Robertson


  • Student experience
  • Science and technology
  • Industry
  • Future World of Work

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