Stories from our international boarding schools

EF Academy New York competes at Hult Business Challenge in London

Blog written by Maya Nylund, G10 student

On January 15th, one team from each of the three EFA campuses gathered in a presentation room and waited to be summoned to the front. Before all of us sat a panel of judges, their faces portraying no emotion and the scratching of their pens provoking additional nervousness amongst us competitors.

We had come together in England for the final presentation of our proposals for the Hult Business Global Case Challenge, an EF and Hult sponsored competition wherein each team formulates a solution to a problem as laid out by Hult organizers. Though the whole of the contest had boiled down to that day, the preparation of the teams involved had roots much farther back.

We, along with our team mates, had been toying with proposals since we had received the problem to be solved in early October. For this contest, the issue to be solved was related to mobility; the freedom to travel, and, in regards to the contest, to travel with fewer negative environmental impacts, accidents and less lost time, and with more convenience. We were to design a product or service for Ford which targeted  Generation Z- the very generation we are a part of- and which related to the “smart mobility”.

After much deliberation and several switches in our plans, we settled on creating a fuel cell car which could run solely on a renewable source of hydrogen: water. Conceptually, the idea is the pinnacle of a sustainable engine mechanism, but practically, it is made difficult to implement as hydrogen is a highly unstable element prone to volatile reactions under non-controlled circumstances. However, we did have a functional prototype of a small car. Our solution also featured omnidirectional wheels, which would make maneuvers like parallel parking very easy, as well as an augmented reality system to help provide information about the road and surrounding area in a more user friendly format.

Before reaching the finals in England, each team competed against a few others at their base campuses in late November. For our team, hearing Dr. Mahoney, our headmaster, as well as Mr. Niesen, the teacher who supervises the contest and the Hult Business Club, announce that we were to compete in the finals at London was an overwhelming joy.

On January 12, our team touched down in Heathrow airport after a six hour flight. We enjoyed English breakfast at a cafe outside Paddington Station before taking the tube to the Hult University campus. Situated in the center of East London, the Hult House East sits in a prime location for access to transport, art galleries, tech start-ups and small businesses. The rooms and study spaces themselves are evidence of the modernity of Hult education as a whole- big windows and glass walls add to the open floor plan, while light woods and bright furniture create interest, but not distraction.

After spending our first day visiting the London Eye, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey despite a torrent of rain, we were afforded the opportunity to meet the other teams, which had students originally from Germany, Mexico, Thailand, Norway and Turkey. As we chatted over pizza and the strumming of a bass guitar at a local restaurant, it came to feel that we had known each other for months instead of hours.

The next day, we received a lecture in public speaking from Eli Bohemund, who later invited us to apply some of what we had learned in an impromptu presentation. In reflection on his presentation, Emily Lee, one of our team members, remarked;

“Getting to present in front of everyone made me more comfortable, made me appreciate more the joy of sharing my ideas and gave me more confidence.”

In the afternoon, we had the privilege of receiving a lecture and one on one help from Daniel Rukare, a Professor of Entrepreneurship. He encouraged us to push our products to their outermost limits, and to probe at our weakest points  so that they might be made stronger.

After a day of hard work and hard thinking, we were treated to a trip to Covent Garden and delicious food at a steakhouse. We then went to watch Stomp, a thrilling West End show which blends narrative, comedy and music without anyone on stage ever needing to say more than a handful of words throughout the entire production.

The next morning- January 14- was presentation day. We woke up early and boarded the coach to the exquisite Ashdridge Estate, which looks like a Hogwarts fantasy both inside and out. According to Ditte, the Hult representative who had been the chief organizer of our trip, the stairs at Ashdridge had actually been the inspiration for the aesthetic of the moving stairs in the Harry Potter films. We spent further hours working, performed a mock-up of our presentation and waited for the ultimate judging to begin.

We performed our presentation for the final time, and it was exhilarating and terrifying- months of work had come down to 10 minutes, and its brevity seemed both fitting and entirely wrong.

After watching the beautifully composed presentations of the other two teams and waiting out for the judges as they discussed their options, all of us migrated to a picturesque chapel of the Ashdridge grounds. Words of thanks, critique and compliments were exchanged. In the end, when the winning name was called, it was “Torbay!” which hung in the air, but it seemed like no great loss to us. We had spent a lovely couple of days in one of the most international cities in the world with people with whom our friendships are bound to extend much further than a few days. We felt like winners nonetheless and the ability to celebrate the success of another EF team, and share in our Hult Finals experience as a whole, was the greatest prize we could have wished for.

Watch Maya’s video here. 

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