The 2023 Kaduna Innovation Challenge holding in the Crocodile City is arousing strong interest from a cross section of Nigerians especially the progressive elements in the northern part of Nigeria. The fiesta, which is in its fourth edition, Is a combination of Hackathon and STEM competitions for the technology savvy and Innovative youth. The event, which involves the participation of secondary school students and university undergraduates, provide avenue for generating ideas and fostering creative thinking among the youths, with the aim of developing their minds into more positive endeavours.
Similarly, the Innovation Challenge focuses on helping young innovators meet investors and venture capitalists to seek investment in potentially viable start up solutions and prototypes.
I am involved in all four fiestas but this year’s edition is somewhat unique. Being the last to hold under the Administration of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who is the chief initiator of the program, the 2023 innovative challenge is indeed very special. An icing on the cake, sort of.
The brain child of Kaduna ICT HUB hardworking CEO, Malam Yusuf Bashir, the Innovation Challenge is traditionally organized by the outfit in partnership with the Kaduna State Ministry of Business, Innovation and Technology.
For the layman, a hackathon is a competitive event that brings together software developers, designers, and entrepreneurs to collaborate on innovative projects. The goal of a hackathon is to develop and present a functional prototype. Participants are given a problem or challenge to solve and are encouraged to think outside the box to come up with creative solutions.
Hackathons are often organized by companies, universities, or industry experts who are looking to find talent for future projects or employment opportunities.
Hackathons bring together brilliant and passionate minds from different fields and create a collaborative environment where ideas can be shared and transformed into something new. Teams generally c023onsist of between two to five members and work together over a limited amount of time (often 24-44 hours) to solve a problem or build an innovative solution. Along the way, teams benefit from mentorship, networking, and resources from the hackathon sponsor. At the end of the event, the most successful teams present their projects to a panel of judges, who decide which team has created the best product or solution.
In recent years, Hackathons have become increasingly popular, as they provide a unique platform for individuals to showcase their skills and creativity.
STEM, meanwhile, are competitions that focus on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These competitions provide a platform for students to showcase their skills. It also helps to cultivate an environment where students of all backgrounds and ages can come together to share their knowledge and achievements in the world of STEM. The STEM competitions, involving hundreds of school boys and girls in Kaduna state, provide an opportunity for students to develop important skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication, which are key elements in a successful career in STEM fields.
In addition, STEM competitions give students, between the ages of 10 to 17, the chance to learn more about specific topics, explore their interests, and even gain recognition for their work. These competitions can also give students the opportunity to work with professionals from the field, providing valuable mentoring experiences and insight into potential career paths.
Furthermore, STEM competitions offer students and schools the chance to win prizes, awards, scholarships, and even trips that will help to develop their STEM skills and knowledge. As well as being great learning experiences, these competitions can also be a fantastic way to meet other students from across the state who share similar interests and passions.
Many attendees were amazed by the high sense of innovation and ingenuity displayed by the participants at the exhibition segment of the fiesta on Wednesday, May 17th at the Umaru Yar’adua Hall.
Products and prototypes such as a delivery robot, a seven-seater electric vehicle manufactured in Kaduna, a surveillance drone, soybeans harvesting machines, among others were unveiled.
The program acquainted some business men, entrepreneurs and industrialists and their representatives with the features, potential and stuff Kaduna is made of.
With this latest achievement, Kaduna has leaped above its contemporaries in Nigeria in the field of innovation and creativity. For the North.it has cemented its position as the torchbearer and pacesetter.
For this year’s Hackathon over 70 teams applied to be part of the event but only 10 teams were selected to participate. And throughout today, these 10 teams will be making their presentations after going through a rigorous time together with their mentors to come up with solutions worth presenting.
After the teams are done presenting, the judges will swing into action, assessing the presentations in accordance with a stringent criteria which includes business value – will this solution sell? Is it going to make money, or at least contribute to the solution that will? Is there a potential to grow the solution into something profitable? Secondly, the judges will look at the level of Innovation and whether the team has factored in all their disposable resources and time in order to come up with the final product. Thirdly, how realistic is the solution? How realistic is the implementation of the solution? The next criteria to be looked at is the level of impact.
How many lives does the solution intend to positively impact? How will it impact the environment? And finally originality – How much edge does the idea have? Is it original or cleverly thought about. Just like in previous editions, the Hackathon participants will compete to solve and proffer solutions to address the problems around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). You may wish to ask why the focus on SDGs? Simplely put, the world today faces numerous existential challenges that require urgent solutions. These problems include poverty, hunger, poor water and sanitation, deprivation, climate change, wars and strife, inequality and environmental degradation.
As the Governor El-Rufai Administration winds down, the Innovation Challenge series which has produced a sizable number of innovators making waves across the globe will undoubtedly serve as a laudable legacy worth emulating.