Feature: Enlightli, Winners of the #HackTO Hardware Hackathon.

At Upverter, we absolutely love seeing teamwork in motion. Nothing quite encapsulates this like a Hackathon! This past weekend, the PCH Toronto Hardware Hackathon took over the MaRS Discovery District. From March 6th to the 9th, makers, designers, hardware, and software developers converged to build a product from scratch with complete strangers. The tagline being “54 hours to go from idea to product.

”The Hackathon opened with a panel by well known members of the popular Canadian tech news site Betakit; where the editors discussed trends in the hardware industry, primarily in wearables. Following their discussion, Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics took the stage as keynote speaker, lending some insight on trends in hardware through a Q&A session. A recurring theme was aesthetic.  Echoing the sentiment of Apple’s Head of Design, Jony Ive, Chris stated to a full room of Hackathon attendees, “Don’t release a product unless it’s beautiful!”.

The pitches were a hodgepodge of the brazen to the brilliant: An anti-drone cannon, a telepresence robot who brings you beer, a smart-cane with fall recognition for the elderly, a shoe that uses your steps to charge a USB device, a water-bottle shaped bike lock that uses city wifi to locate your bike, and plenty more. There were some great ideas, but only one team could walk away with the gold.


That team was Enlightli – A bicycle helmet with built-in LEDs to keep you visible at night, powered by your natural body heat.

I spoke with Chantal Jandard, designer of the team to get her thoughts.

1: What was your role in the team, and how did your team delegate responsibility in such a short time?

I was the designer; I worked on the branding, presentation and contributed to the product ideation and validation.

We delegated pretty organically; some of us had directly applicable skills (like electrical engineering) that lent themselves quite clearly to specific tasks. Others (like the software engineers and the business folk) found ways to make their skills useful and fill gaps. Our team had great initiative; people self-assigned themselves to tasks and found opportunities for themselves to add value.


Chantal poses with the helmet while Dhru gives the final 3-minute pitch. (source)

2: How much did the product, or idea change over the weekend?

The core concepts stayed the same: we could generate electricity from body heat and this was nifty, especially to developing nations. Beyond that however, it was a pivot-a-thon: we went from a cell phone charger for the hipster-traveler-type to a self-heating sleeping bag to the bicycle helmet. Although it was a bit stressful to keep dropping and picking up angles, we were stronger for the thrash, because in the end we had a product backed up with customer conversations and research.

Having won the Hackathon’s 1st prize, the team has a solid head start in validating their product. They’ll receive $4000 in cash, incorporation by LaBarge Weinstein, and over $4000 worth of additional services by the burgeoning startup community here in Toronto. In addition to all of this, they’ll take center stage on March 19th to pitch once more at the Tech in Motion Event at the MaRS Discovery District.

What will be next for Enlightli? Three of the team members have taken on the project full time, so we’ll keep you posted. Until then – Keep the innovation coming!

Special thanks to PCH International for hosting the Hackathon, all teams, and all volunteers for participating. A full list of tweets about the event can be found using #HackTO.

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