Hacking for Education

Aug 13, 2018

20+ teams, 60+ aspiring entrepreneurs, 4 education challenges, 20+ partners & mentors, & 48 hours of hacking

That’s just a snapshot of NIC Hacktivate – A Hackathon for Education hosted by National Incubation Center (NIC) Islamabad from 28 to 29 July 2018, in collaboration with Ilm Ideas 2. The hackathon brought together students, educators, innovators, and technologists from all over Pakistan to design education solutions around the four themes of Disability, Virtual Education, Learning Resources, and Life Skills. For those who missed it, here’s a recap of the event!

Day 1 – Networking and Hacking

The day started off with a networking tea so the startups and mentors could get to know each other. The first two Hacking Sessions were led by Helen Kamal, Team Lead at Ilm Ideas 2, who introduced participants to the hackathon themes and got them started on outlining their initial ideas.

This was followed by Design Thinking exercises facilitated by Zulfiqar Qazilbash (Business Consultant, Ilm Ideas 2) to help the startups understand their target customers and users.

The first day concluded with a panel discussion with education experts including Nadya Karim-Shaw (World Learning), Faisal Laghari (Learn-o-Bots), Talhah Munir (Knowledge Platform) and Nauman Bukhari (Orenda). The panelists shared their insights on topics including global best practices in education, uptake of STEM education in Pakistan, and common pitfalls of ed-tech startups.

After the panel discussion, teams were briefed on activities for the next day. NIC generously kept its facilities open for out-of-station teams so they could stay through the night to work on their final pitches.

Day 2 – More Hacking, Ed-talks, and Final Pitches:  Day two kicked off with a morning yoga session with Humay Waseem as a refresher for the teams that had been burning the midnight oil to work on their pitches.

After yoga and tea, participants got back to hacking sessions. First up was a guided session with Zulfiqar Qazilbash in which startups worked on their business model. The hall was bursting with energy and excitement as participants mapped out their startup ideas on their Business Model Canvas templates.


This was followed by an exciting workshop on “Improving your Pitch Idea” with Furqan Qureshi. Startups were taken through The Pitch Canvas to layout the design of their final presentations, and were given many useful tips and advice – summed up, be clear, be simple, and be focused.”

Before the final pitches was an Ed-Talk by Haroon Yasin – Chairperson of Orenda and winner of the Queen’s Young Leader Award. Haroon shared the inspiration behind starting Orenda and the numerous pivots the startup made to build its current model for digital learning applications for slum children.

And then came the final moment everyone was waiting for; 14 startups presented their five-minute pitches to a panel of judges, which included Ali Ibrahim – Head of Corporate Sustainability Jazz, Helen Kamal – Team lead Ilm Ideas 2, Talha Munir – Country Manager Knowledge Platform, Seher Taimoor – World Learning and Cynia Ejaz – Community Manager NIC. Ideas pitched ranged from an LMS to streamline content delivery at schools to a robotics club promoting girls’ participation in STEM fields.

The winner of the competition was Beyond the Classroom (BTC) – a startup that conducts active learning workshops in schools across Pakistan to promote empathy, tolerance and social responsibility. BTC won a spot in the fourth cohort of the incubation cycle at the NIC – which will help the startup to continue working on its plan to expand its outreach via development of digital platforms and gamified applications.

It does not end here – The hackathon brought together over 80 education enthusiasts to share ideas, lessons, and knowledge of innovative and sustainable ways to solve challenges in education. Each team took something with them – whether it was a new connection or a new way of thinking about their business idea.

We would like to thank the NIC for making this all possible. And lastly, good news – NIC has committed to establishing a dedicated track for education startups in its incubation cycle. So those who missed it this time don’t need to worry as they can expect more education hackathons in the future!


Photo Credits: National Incubation Center Islamabad

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