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George Chen - July 2021

This month we’re putting the spotlight on George Chen, a Software Developer and 2019 Maker who participated in our regional Ballarat Makeathon.

Image description: George smiling in front of a blurred background


How did you hear about the TOM: Melbourne Makeathon?

I first heard about TOM: Melbourne from my friends: "Would you like to do a hackathon where you can build some hardware?" Unlike many other software-focused hackathons, the projects from TOM: Melbourne usually required a solution which was more complex than just a piece of software - which I believed challenged my skill set and expertise. I also believed in the idea of "applying skills and knowledge to help people in need," which aligns with the core value of TOM: Melbourne. So in the end, it was really a no-brainer for me to sign up.


What was your team's challenge and how did you arrive at your solution?

The challenge given was how to improve the quality of life for a family with a 26-year old daughter, Natalie, with ASD. Natalie experiences anxiety if she doesn't know what her tasks are for the day, so one of the key challenges the family faced was how to visualise Natalie's daily schedule and make it easily accessible for her. She needed a solution that would constantly remind her of her tasks throughout the day.


Our team initially struggled to thoroughly understand the problem and the underlying issues. We didn't want to build a solution that didn't solve the real problem. Before the Makeathon, TOM: Melbourne organised a briefing session between our team and Natalie's mum. After this meeting, we developed a few iterations of our prototype design and received very valuable feedback. This enabled our team to head in the right direction, and deliver the right outcome for Natalie and her family.


What was your experience like during the Makeathon and working with your Need-Knower?

It was a fantastic experience to work with the family in Team Natalie during the Makeathon. Spending two days with them gave us many insights into their day-to-day life, which helped our team tailor a bespoke solution to address their needs. Unlike other hackathons - where the participants were just given a topic or problem statement - TOM: Melbourne's Makeathon provides a real opportunity to work with real people with unique needs. What was valuable was the opportunity to collect incremental feedback and enhance our design and solution over time.


At the end of the Makeathon, each member of our team received a mug from Natalie's family as an appreciation gift. It was at that moment that I realised even two days of work could mean so much for others. It made me believe that our solutions will indeed go on to make a real difference to those in need.

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