Course Phase 1

Fast Hack

Key Dates

Fast Hack event: Beginning Wednesday 27th January 2016
Team Presentations (Assignment GP1): Class time, Friday 29th January 2016
Fast Hack individual report (Assignment R1): due 16:00 Monday, 8th February 2016


In this phase, you and your team will conduct a preliminary investigation on a sub-theme related to food and sustainability. This is the first step in identifying a specific problem or question that your team will work on for the rest of semester. You will need to put into practice the skills and knowledge introduced in the Preparation Phase. Participating fully in the Fast Hack and being engaged with your team is the best possible preparation for the rest of the course.

The Fast Hack has two main tasks for each team:

  1. Gather information about your chosen sub-theme and its current state at the University of Edinburgh.
  2. Identify specific problems/questions within your sub-theme, and generate ideas for how to address them.

Task 1: Information-gathering

In order to propose a design-led solution to a problem, you must first identify a specific problem, and understand the context in which you are working. What is happening (or not happening) right now with respect to your sub-theme? What do people want, think, do, or say in relation to the sub-theme?

During the Fast Hack, you are a detective. Just as a detective must go to places and speak to people in order to understand “what happened” and why, you must leave the classroom and spend time in the University community to understand what’s happening (and why) on your chosen sub-theme. While you and your team members will already have experiences around food and sustainability at the University, it is very important not to only rely on your team’s pre-existing ideas. Try to look at familiar things with “fresh eyes”, as though you were visiting an unknown place or culture. Question things that seem given, or obvious.

Although we have identified a number of Food and Sustainability sub-themes, each of these is still pretty broad. Your team will need to think about your interest and priorities within your chosen sub-theme. You will need to plan:

  • Where to go during the Fast Hack.
  • Who to talk to — may be teams, individuals, organisations.
  • What you want to find out (types of data to collect).
  • Practicalities: any equipment needed, staying in touch on the day, storing information, etc.

At the same time as planning how to use your time, you should be ready to follow up on interesting, unexpected things you might stumble across during your investigation.

Some starting information for the Fast Hack is available here:

Task 2: Identify problems and generate ideas

Once you have some done some information-gathering from relevant locations and people, you can start to identify specific problem areas. What are smaller challenges, within the sub-theme, for which you might be able to design a proof-of-concept solution? At this stage, your team does not have to (and should not) choose only one problem and solution. You should show that you have identified several possible problems and solutions, based on the Fast Hack.

At this stage, you do not need to have worked out all the details of an idea, and do not need to worry about financial viability or building anything. Focus on generating and communicating ideas that could potentially help solve your identified problem. What would you do, and why? What impact might this idea have on food and sustainability?

Your Presentation

We’re asking your presentation to address three questions, using as many forms of information as you can reasonably collect during the Fast Hack:

  • What is the current state of your food and sustainability sub-theme at the University? Where are we starting from—what is happening (or not happening) right now?

  • What are some of the specific food and sustainability problems you might be able to address, within this sub-theme?

  • What are some possible ideas for addressing each problem (i.e. improving some aspect of food-related sustainability)?

In the presentation, your team needs to be able to explain what new data you collected and what existing data you located and used, and how the answers to your three questions (current state, possible problems, possible ideas) are based on your Fast Hack information. Be ready to explain how, where, and when you gathered information.

You are encouraged to make your presentations visual — use photos, drawings, videos, animations, graphs, maps, etc. to help communicate about the information you collected, and your design ideas.

By the End of this Phase

You should have started your individual report (due early in the next phase), including a description of your personal contribution to the Fast Hack ideas and to the group presentation.

Your team should have created a presentation of the information gathered in Fast Hack, and your initial ideas, and be able to clearly explain what you have done so far and why.

Your team should have stored any collected data in accordance with approved DDS and university data management and privacy requirements.

Learning Outcomes for this Phase