While most semester summer abroad experiences are fairly traditional – courses, cultural visits, travel to nearby countries, and a strong connection among the students on the program – WashU students studying in the UK this semester found themselves deeply connected with local students to come together and propose solutions for the London Mayor’s Entrepreneurship Competition.
During a two-day “Creative Hack” students developed entrepreneurial skills while working in teams to develop a new business idea to make London a better place to live, work, and visit, with a particular focus on making the city cleaner and greener. The hackathon was a collaboration between a number of universities, including University College London, London College of Fashion, Loughborough University London, Birkbeck, University of East London, London South Bank University, and Washington University in St. Louis.
The student ideas were clustered in one of these four areas: environment, smart cities, creative industries, and health. Mentors, advisors, and workshops were all built into the event, and the teams presented their final work to an expert panel of judges a mere 30 hours after they met and started the process.
Alexis Costales (EN ’21) attended the Creative Hack expecting to stay in her comfort zone: coding. “This event was more about ideation which I really appreciated. Most of my project time was spent having conversations with my group, informally debating and learning about different environmental issues in London. The experience gave me a look into a city I had never been to before and supplied me with information that cannot be learned on a tour,” said Costales about the experience. At the end of the two days, Costales shared that the event “helped me think back to the real reason I got into computer science: to solve problems.”
“Our students took advantage of the opportunity to engage the local innovation ecosystem and ended up on teams with students from all over Europe and across several London Universities,” said II Luscri, Managing Director of the Skandalaris Center and Assistant Vice Provost of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at WashU. “It is our hope that these connections continue to grow and lead to many more ideas and startup concepts that our students can develop while in the UK and beyond.”