We facilitated a weekend Hackathon to help students, researchers and staff at University College London (UCL) to develop prototypes for an app that could delay or prevent dementia through encouraging lifestyle change, leading to increased quality of life, and prolonged independent living.


University College London (UCL) is consistently ranked among the top 20 super-eliteuniversities in the world by the Times’ Higher Education University Guide, and aims to foster entrepreneurial capabilities among its student, staff, PhD, postdoctoral researchers and alumni.

The Institute of Communications and Connected Systems at UCL and the UCL’s Division of Psychiatry’s organised the Dementia Hackathon. The initiative was funded by the APPLE Tree programme, a £3.9m UKRI funded programme which aims to impact the half of older people (aged 60+) who have problems with “cognition” (memory, orientation and other thinking), and therefore a greater chance of developing dementia.


UCL asked us to facilitate a 2-day hackathon to support members of the UCL community to develop an application which addresses the challenge statement. At the end of the 2 days, teams were expected to pitch their ideas to a board of judges – including Public Health England, Alzheimer’s Society, UCL Department of Electronic Engineering and Apple Tree Programme Coordinators & Researchers – to win up to £10 000 investment into the development of their idea.


Studio Zao facilitated the Hackathon for 45 attendees and experts, grouped in 10 teams.

After introductory talks from experts, we introduced the hack process and explained what makes a successful hack team.
Participants teamed up through speed dating. The morning of the first day was dedicated to discuss their ideas and provide them with mini exercises and processes to help develop further their idea or select what elements to pursue.
In the afternoon, teams had the opportunity to meet with our facilitators and a panel of experts for one-to-one 15 minute consultations and were advised on how to present their idea and how it aligned to selection criteria. At the end of day 1, teams presented their ideas in quick presentations and received feed back from audience. During day 2, teams continued their work on building prototypes and eventually pitched their idea to receive the £10,000 prize.


Each team presented their ideas at the end of the second day. The winning teams received prizes up to £10,000 and they are now being supported to develop their idea. The resultant technology will have the opportunity to be trialled in a national pilot as part of the Apple Tree Project.


‘I enjoyed how hands on it was – by taking us physically through the ideation process, the facilitator was able to demonstrate the value of the process and relate our work to real world examples’

Hector D.UCL student

‘The speaker is really good and I hope he can deliver more talks. It was useful to understand the overall framework to rapidly create ideas and evaluate them in real life.

Maria S.UCL student

‘Thank you so much for not only the learning opportunity but the networking aspect that was built into the activities!’

Abdul H.UCL student


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