Californian uni hosts Hackathon for young entrepreneurs

Students from several top secondary schools in the UK were hosted by the University of Southern California at the London event

The University of Southern California (USC) hosted students from a fleet of leading secondary schools in the UK for a ‘Hackathon’ event in London, where they competed against one another to pitch a tech start-up. The aim of the event was to teach the pupils about entrepreneurship and introduce them to exciting, successful role models from USC. The event featured introductions from James Ellis, Dean of USC’s Marshall School of Business and Elizabeth Daley, Dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and was led by Dr. Hao Li, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at USC. Li is also the founder of Pinscreen, an app that allows users to build their own 3D avatars, and create AR selfies and personalised animojis.

USC, whose students and graduates have produced companies like Salesforce, Box and Tinder, also brought two of its current entrepreneurial students, Riley Testut and Aimee Zhang, to mentor the pupils throughout the Hackathon.

Li, Testut and Zhang assigned each school team a real world company that had secured initial funding, but required more. Students, working in groups, researched and created pitches to sell their companies to the panel of judges. Following four impassioned pitches, Dulwich College took the gold and were crowned the winners for their innovative pitch about a watch for the visually impaired.

Li commented: “The competition was incredibly tough. We were really impressed with all the schools’ pitches and picking a winner was not easy. However, there was one school who stood out above the others. The team from Dulwich College beat the competition by going the extra mile: they built a prototype which enhanced the visuals of their presentation and prepared thoughtful answers to the judging panel’s questions.”

Steven Carroll, Computer Science teacher at Dulwich College, added: “We were thrilled to be invited to attend the Hackathon, the students were determined to win the competition and were ecstatic when they won first place! The pupils really enjoyed themselves and were particularly excited to learn more about how Riley, Amy and Hao had developed their individual businesses. It has certainly sparked some creative ideas at the school! Thanks again to the University of Southern California for having us.”

The team from Dulwich College was awarded Amazon vouchers and all schools were given a certificate of participation and a USC t-shirt.