Knowledge is Power

It was Sir Francis Bacon that first coined this phrase in 1597. Jump to 2016, and Melbourne Knowledge Week shows this in action

Every year, the City of Melbourne chooses a unique place in the CBD for their Knowledge Week hub. It’s a space that embodies Melbourne’s culture – rustic, retro, re-repurposed, sustainable, central, diverse, and laid-back. The MKW hub this year was no exception, with the media opening kicking off in style at 1000 Pound Bend.

Blue is the theme, 1000 Pound Bend is the place! MKW Hub all set to go.
Blue is the theme, 1000 Pound Bend is the place! MKW Hub all set to go.

The theme this year was “Connecting Minds, Creating Change” with a focus on “embracing failure and all its benefits”. Melbourne has become the city of the Australian startup world. Its entrepreneurial culture, 24 hour services, diversity, and unique cafés encourage people to break out of their comfort zones in all aspects. Knowledge Week aimed to be a celebration of this drive, highlighting key inventions born from Melbourne; the polymer bank-note, the bionic eye, the baby capsule, the dim sim, the stubby, the esky, and yes, the Keep Cup!

The Lord Mayor said at the opening, I love it how Melbourne takes the simple, and turns it into something “elegantly beautiful and completely functional”.

The hub

1000 Pound Bend became a place of innovation, creativity, technology, and a bringing together of both the old and the new for one whole week! Let me just say too, this place does AMAZING food and coffee (well chai for me), but try their pizzas – they are delicious.

Anyways, back to MKW. Each day the Hub showcased a number of different startups, inventions, community organisations, and companies around Melbourne. First up was SCANN3D, alumni from the Melbourne Accelerator Program, Deakin University and their new VR course, the Melbourne School of Engineering with drones, the Melbourne University Space Program with a satellite, and Colbalt – they had keep cups!!!

How many Keep Cups is too much?
How many Keep Cups is too much?

Connie and Robert, the lifelike Nao robots, hung around the hub for the week, playing a role in many panels and talks, but also just being a mechanical presence. They had people dancing along to Gungdam Style and asked visitors if they “wanted a friend”.

Nao during "Life in the Cyber-Physical World", presented by Deakin University
Nao during “Life in the Cyber-Physical World”, presented by Deakin University.

Over the course of the week, many other companies featured their technology; Deakin was alive with the VR lounge, heaps of workshops were held in the chapel, startups pitched their ideas, drinks were had, and it’s safe to say there was a lot of networking.

Make and Create, Design and Build

Sunday saw the Hub turned into a makerspace, complete with drones, robots, LEDs, 3D printers, soldering irons, and of course VR. Virtual Reality was a big player this week with Deakin setup in the hub from Monday until Sunday evening, and SCANN3D running around doing captures of the spaces as well as presenting their virtual tours in Tasman Terrace.

VR at the Hub's lounge.
VR at the Hub’s lounge.

The makerspace was a massive hit, with plenty of people coming out for the day to fly mini drones, learn to solder, use 3D printing pens, and check out the different places in Melbourne playing in this area. The Connected Community Hacker Space demonstrated what they can do with Arduinos, Girl Geek Academy presented their custom made Hello Kitty 3D printer, JayCar gave out spirit levels, and many companies showcased their technology.

The chapel at 1000 Pound Bend is transformed into a Makerspace!
The chapel at 1000 Pound Bend is transformed into a Makerspace!
Hello Thingy! Girl Geek's custom 3D printer
Hello Thingy! Girl Geek’s custom 3D printer.


There was something on all the time for MKW. If you had a spare few minutes I hope you had a chance to check out all the amazing things happening all over Melbourne. I didn’t get to all the events, so these are my highlights.

Technology Transforms the City

Dan Hill’s keynote talk on what our future city would look like was a sell out on the Monday evening. He wants to measure how citizens interact with the city, not just collect a whole lot of data (might be something for Black here). Dan spoke about the importance of designing both the physical and digital spaces in order to ensure mobility and interactivity with others. But how does applying technology to our city affect its culture and behaviour? We’ll have to wait and see…

Interestingly, he also called tech companies not to build MVPs (Minimum Viable Products) but to focus on the MVM – the Minimum Viable Magic! Make something that will add value to your city, yes he’s talking to you, whoever you are with a great idea.

Speaking of magic… know what else was magical? Andrew Sorenson, the Concert Programmer, with a live coding demo of his amazing DJ set at the VIP opening night. If you haven’t ever seen him, check out Andrew here.

Live coding in C and C#.
Live DJ coding in C and C#.

Celebrating Collaboration

Did you know that there are over thirty co-working spaces in Melbourne? Probably not, but many of them were open for the co-working demo day on Tuesday. The CBD featured Collective Campus, NAB Village, The Cluster, York Butter Factory and more. Most of you have already seen Inspire9 and LaunchPad out in the City of Yarra, but also Port Phillip, Maribyrong, and Stonnington all have co-working spaces. Plenty of places also opened their doors for talks and panels throughout the week.

The co-working day was about showcasing these fantastic working environments around Melbourne and demonstrating their flexibility as well as how they can help businesses grow. It’s not all about startups, but corporates can also benefit from these spaces. Diversity, networking, and sharing are just some of the opportunities available to people who work in these fantastic places… this could be a great topic for another blog…

Didn't get a chance to see all the co-working places? Here's the MKW list.
Didn’t get a chance to see all the co-working places? Here’s the MKW list.

Celebrating Failure

Carlton Connect and the University of Melbourne hosted a panel on failure… kinda ironic at a university, but here’s where it really gets interesting. This was definitely one of the big highlights for me. Such a talented panel; Jacyl Shaw, Clare Harding, Jamie Green, and Paul Fenwick, hosted by the awesome Chris KP. Science performer Chris, set the scene by talking about what success looks like, in sport, in music, in business, in the military, in science. We all know what success SHOULD look like, but no one really knows how to visualise failure.

Our fail-stars for the evening hit the hard topics!
Our fail-stars for the evening hit the hard topics!

The Good F Word was determined to change this. The “fail stars” of the night came from backgrounds as diverse as acting, science, arts, startups, business, technology, and university. Each described their own life journeys, pointing out where they failed, what they learnt, and how those experiences played a role in their success to date.

Failure is often seen as something to be ashamed of and, as Clare pointed out, it feels really bad when you fail. We have such a “narrow definition of success”, leaving too much room for feelings of failure. So how do we go about not just learning from it, but celebrating failure? If we are collectively less afraid of failure, more compassionate, more kind, then perhaps this might lead to less failure, or less feeling like a failure, or at least, better failure.

Paul had a slightly different take on failure than Clare, saying that “success” could lead to the failure of humanity… just look at self-driving cars, self-driving trucks, the industrial revolution, you name it. Every time people innovate, jobs are lost. We are living longer, working less, have more leisure time and therefore more time to innovative. But does this in itself lead to a vicious cycle of: innovation –> job loss, until there is nothing people can do anymore? I dunno, I’m asking the question.

Jamie described his experiences with failure. A school drop out at year 10, big time business entrepreneur by 24, Jamie has some life experiences he can draw on. Finally, Jacyl read out a letter to her “brain crush” Carol Dweck. Jacyl calls failure – the First Attempt In Learning (FAIL). She says rather than saying “I didn’t get to that stage”, we should we saying “I haven’t got there, yet!”. Keep trying and don’t give up.

Finally, the panel called out that the right kind of failure should be celebrated. Some failures are NOT okay, for moral, humanitarian, or ethical reasons. Fail the right way and learn from it.

hackathons, Hackathons, HACKATHONS!!!

There were four hackathons this weekend… FOUR I tell you. Three of them were for Melbourne Knowledge Week and the fourth was still within the confines of MKW. There’s the run down:

  • Melbourne Datathon
  • UX Hack for Change
  • China and the Knowledge Economy
  • Startup Weekend

I only went to two of these, so I will mainly talk about the UX Hack and Startup Weekend. Firstly, the Melbourne Datathon hosted its pitch night on Friday evening at NAB Village as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week. How do you see data? This was a question pitched by the talent Melbourne had to offer.

Saturday morning kicked off with both the UX Hack, and the Knowledge Economy workshop. Both these hackathons were super-lightning-quick, running for a mere seven hours each. As such, they were more ideation workshops, but some fantastic prototypes and mock-ups were presented at these hackathons.

There's no such thing as a hackathon without sticky notes involved.
There’s no such thing as a hackathon without sticky notes involved.

I was one of the judges for the UX Hack for Change, presented by General Assembly, a hackathon focusing on aiding the homeless community of Melbourne, especially during environmental extremes. The winning team came up with a great cross-platform app (web, mobile, print) to alert people about extreme weather conditions and suggestions on what to do. They presented a nice design on what the product would look like, which they can hopefully continue to build their idea.

The Startup Weekend featured a sustainable angle. Not officially part of MKW, but hosted at York Butter, over 50 students and professionals came together to build businesses around sustainable enterprises. With inspiration from Keep Cup and Frank Green (yeah those peeps who make the smart coffee cups), teams had just over 30 hours to come up with an idea and business model. Some had fully working products, whilst others had a design template. Congrats to everyone who presented. The ideas that came through on the Twitter feed looked amazing – scan your product to see if you can recycle it, yes please!

Look out for more hackathons coming up soon.

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