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UNHack experience brings together over 450 students to tackle sustainability challenges

Lassonde’s BEST Program welcomed over 450 students at UNHack 2022, a three-day immersive learning experience aimed at addressing sustainability challenges related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals ( UN SDGs).

From November 4-6, UNHack created a safe and immersive environment for participants to learn about sustainability challenges in their community, come up with creative ideas and work in teams to design solutions for the SDG-related challenges they identified. Through this process, students were encouraged to discover their passions and unleash their potential.   

On the first day of UNHack, students met their teammates and dedicated mentors while learning about the Design Sprint process. They also got to choose a challenge they were passionate about tackling while establishing roles within their teams. The next day, participants continued their structured learning journey with their teammates by brainstorming and developing solution designs for the problem they were addressing.

UNHack 2022 experience brings together over 450 students
UNHack 2022 experience brings together over 450 students

Students gather at Bergeron Centre for UNHack 2022

“My biggest takeaway was learning how to apply different methods to solving a problem,” says Jason Lee, first-year engineering student. “By not focusing immediately on solving the problem at hand and instead understanding why the problem exists, it helped us come up with a better solution.”

UNHack provided students with the unique opportunity to elaborate on their ideas and learn about the different perspectives of their peers while completing a project. Participants were able to develop a variety of skills including resilience, collaboration, leadership, time management, critical thinking, communication and project management.

“I learned what it is like to work on a project with a group and how to collaborate with other people,” says Joshua Lopez, first-year engineering student. “UNHack showed me how beneficial, efficient and creative solutions can arise when working with a team, which is a vital experience as an engineering student, since many future projects will require me to collaborate with others.”

Over 100 project teams took part in UNHack, with 74 teams making it to the preliminary judging round and 11 teams advancing to the final round! The top teams focused on a range of topics such as road safety, technological services to encourage female students to enter STEM fields, accessible opportunities for sustainable development and many more!

UNHack 2022 experience brings together over 450 students
UNHack 2022 experience brings together over 450 students

Students meeting with their teams at UNHack 2022

“My biggest takeaway from this experience would have to be the amazing, skilled and smart women and men I have met on this journey, whom I now have the pleasure of calling my friends,” Nicole Ikhuenbor, first-year engineering student. “The moments we spent at UNHack were invaluable. I was able to face being uncomfortable and embrace my communication and leadership skills. The whole team who orchestrated UNHack was amazing, thank you for this experience, I truly learned so much!”

Winning Teams

UNHack 2022 winning team photo Team #88: O2 – posing with Dr. Andrew Maxwell (far right) and Karen Lai (second from the right)
Team #88: O2 – posing with Dr. Andrew Maxwell (far right) and Karen Lai (second from the right)

First Place – Team #88:O2 (Chen Yu, Alex Pastiu, Ahmed Syed, Shaan Tandon, Alejandro Francis, Mikhail Ajasa). This team addressed UN SDG #6: Clean Water and Sanitation by designing an affordable water distiller/desalinator that can be built using local resources and is easy to set up and maintain, in order to serve the communities who don’t have access to clean drinking water.

Team #5: e-Portfolio posing with BEST Program Manager, Maedeh Sedaghat (centre)

Second Place (and People’s Choice Award) – Team #5: e-Portfolio (Suyash Singh, Anna Maximova, Heet Narechania, Mohammad Jad Allah, Ummi Hanny, Faiyaz Abdul Aziz, Syed Ali Reza Rizvi). This team addressed UN SDG #4: Quality Education by creating an AI based e-portfolio to support York University students with smart course selection. Their platform aims to make the course selection process easy and eliminate the need to check and recheck the academic calendar, by integrating a huge course directory that will constantly be updated.

UNHack 2022 winning team photo
Team #103: Trash to Treasure

Third Place – Team #103: Trash to Treasure (Wolfgang Becker, Stavroula Kloutsouniotis, Julia Rodriguez, Amarjeet Gill,). This team addressed UN SDG #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities by creating miniaturized recycling facilities on campus to convert recycled plastic into useful building materials for new construction, art or renovation and promote on-campus recycling! 

“Unlike traditional hackathons, UNHack focuses on empowering students to feel comfortable with ambiguity and to get out of their comfort zone in order to learn more about themselves, the process of creative problem solving and sustainability projects,” says Maedeh Sedaghat, Manager, BEST Program. “Students are provided with tools and techniques they can apply to design innovative solutions, make an impact in their community and help make the world a better place.”

Congratulations to all the winners and students who participated in this experience! Thank you to all the sponsors who made this event possible: York University (Office of the Vice-President Finance & Administration), Summer Fresh, KPM Power and Scotiabank along with our partners, mentors and moderators.

We would also like to thank Dr. Magdalena Krol, Associate Dean – Research, Innovation, Enterprise & Partnerships, Dean Hovorka from the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change and Nicole Arsenault, Program Director, Sustainability, for their opening remarks at UNHack. 

Finally, we would like to thank our panel of expert judges: Elliot Atkins, Karen Lai, Subashini Kangesan, Nicole Arsenault, Dr. Jon Kerr and Keith Loo.    View more photos from the UNHack on our Facebook page.