I recently traveled to Beijing to participate in the Co-Making the Future: China-US Young Maker Competition. This is a recap of my experiences in the competition.
Being Selected as a Semi-Finalist
The US portion of the contest was conducted as an online hackathon by Hackster, with hardware and prizes sponsored by Intel. I decided to build a smart composting system, and was fortunate enough to be selected as a semi-finalist. I was given the ability to build a small team and travel to China (all-expenses paid) to participate in the next round of the competition. I called up my good friend from college, Michael Bradford (who is also a maker/inventor), and off we went!
Prepping for the Trip
For anyone participating in next year’s competition – MAKE SURE YOUR PASSPORT IS UP TO DATE!!! My passport expired and I had to expedite my renewal.
- I had eye masks, ear plugs, and noise cancelling headphones for the trip
- I made sure I added international coverage to my cell phone plan
- I brought a ton on snacks for the trip
- I brought a pillow and blanket, though the airline provided them as well.
My week in China
Sunday – Monday – I left Dallas at 11:45AM on Sunday and arrived Monday at 3:00PM Beijing time, so I spent the evening just relaxing and getting acclimated to Beijing. The hotel was nice; the rooms were a little small and we had to share rooms (2 to a room)… but it was free, so I can’t really complain. I got a chance to meet most of the other US competitors, then had a nice quiet team dinner.
Tuesday – The US participants were invited to take a tour of the Great Wall. Reading about the Great Wall does not do it justice. It is gigantic and amazing.
Tuesday PM – Wednesday – Hacking the night away
Tuesday night was the kick off of the 24 hour hackathon. I had never participated in an on-location/in-person hackathon, so I was looking forward to the experience. It was an amazing. I was overwhelmed by the number of really great teams and good ideas. Even though it was a competition, there was a real spirit of working-together and collaboration.
And the GOODIES…. we had drinks and snacks… power tools…. soldering irons and 3D printers… basically anything a maker could need…
Well, ALMOST everything. Unfortunately one of my parts broke just as I was getting on the plane, and I didn’t have a chance replace it. That meant I spend a significant part of my time re-working my solution instead of improving it.
Thursday Morning- Judging
9:00 AM was the start of judging. Luckily, my team’s projects was selected to go to the next round. I got some really good feedback about the product (which I’m incorporating into a second prototype).
Thursday Afternoon- Tienanmen Square
After judging, my teammate and I visited Tienanmen Square. We took a lot of selfies/group pics with Chinese tourists. A LOT OF SELFIES. In fact, we had to take off running at one point because we were getting overwhelmed with requests for pictures.
Friday – Final Judging
The results of the competition were announced on Friday morning. One US team placed in 3rd!!!
After judging, we took a quick trip to the US Embassy, then I spent the evening at a nice restaurant.
It was a great trip. I’m grateful to Hackster and Intel for sponsoring the competition, and to our guides in China for their hospitality.