DigiQuest: inspiration for digital future

Successful first edition of international event on AI and Blockchain

In the NEMO Science Museum Amsterdam, thousands of visitors marvel daily at applications in science and technology. The perfect location for DigiQuest, a new large-scale international event, organized by Inholland University of Applied Sciences in collaboration with other educational institutions and partners. From November 15 to 17, over 200 students and secondary school students were offered a combination of theory, inspiration, and practical applications from developments in Artificial Intelligence, Web3, Blockchain, and the Internet of Things.

Developments are moving fast, irrevocably changing the future of people's working and private lives. They offer opportunities to organize work more efficiently and to contribute to a clean, safe, and sustainable future. At DigiQuest, all these things came together: pupils and students were challenged to think about how to use digital technology in solving major (societal) challenges.

Achieving Sustainable Development Goals
This was reflected in the International Blockchain Olympiad, an annual international design competition where students think about how Blockchain and Web3 can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Inholland University of Applied Sciences participated in this competition for the first time in 2020 and wanted to organize the event themselves this year, expanding with a larger, in-depth programme around the same themes. As a result, the Olympiad took place in Europe for the first time and became part of the first edition of DigiQuest.

In the Museum Café of NEMO, students from all over the world presented their ideas. Like Rebecca, a Computer Science and Software Engineering student from Mexico: ‘Sustainability is not always a top priority among architects, which is remarkable, because the construction industry is responsible for 37% of global CO2 emissions.’ Rebecca and her group presented their idea “EcoTransform”, a programme designed to aid architects in making sustainable choices. ‘EcoTransform allows architects to upload designs and assess the environmental impact of various sustainable options, like different materials or sourcing locally. For example, wood is a sustainable material, but if it has to come from Brazil to the Netherlands, it still has a major impact on CO2 emissions and the climate.’

EcoTransform also suggests alternative designs, immediately conducting cost analysis. ‘It is also linked to local legislation, tax benefits and subsidies. Additionally, it includes a gamification aspect: it shows which architects deliver the best performance with regard to sustainable applications. This feature is especially useful for clients prioritizing sustainability in their partnerships.’

No hype, no threat
DigiQuest is not only intended for students with a technical education. Students from other programs such as Creative Business or Social Work could also gain a lot of inspiration about the applicability of digital technology within their field. For instance, Gijs Besselink from iO Blended Design Agency gave a clear, interactive, and practice-oriented presentation on the rapid development of Generative AI. To illustrate this, he showed two photos of a piece of lime pie. The audience had to guess which photo was real and which was AI-generated. About a third of the audience got it wrong, and some of those who were right admitted they had made a wild guess. Another example showing the progress of of AI-generated images was an image of hands and how much more realistic they now look compared to six years ago. Besselink's message: AI is not a hype, but a process in development. And not a threat, but an application that helps optimizing work processes.

Design Thinking

Four students from ROC Flevoland in Almere emerged enthusiastically from “The AI Opener” workshop. Their presentation was highlighted as the best. The students came up with the idea to use AI to automatically maintain vegetation in Amsterdam. We learned how to work with Design Thinking. It really teaches you to plan strategically in a team. We can also apply this in our own education.’ Then the group disappeared to look around NEMO, as this was obviously another great opportunity. Their teachers Ap and Channan watched the group with appropriate pride. ‘For such motivated students, this day is really fantastic. Lots of knowledge enrichment, well organized and nice that thought was given to providing elements of the programme in line with mbo (vocational) education.’

For Jouhar, DigiQuest was the opportunity to learn more about AI and Blockchain. Jouhar came from Syria to the Netherlands seven years ago and is now studying Applied Mathematics/Data Science at Inholland Amsterdam. ‘The attention to Bitcoin sparked my interest in Blockchain and I did some research on it. I just attended an interesting panel discussion about the future of Generation Z and education. And thanks to one of the presentations today, I discovered new possibilities: you can even use AI to identify criminals or check the veracity of politicians' claims. Data and mathematics are the basis of Blockchain, so this event gives me direction for my further study and the development of my field.’

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