What started as an idea to engage students and recent graduates from colleges and universities across the GTA quickly turned into a showcase of collective minds and extreme talent.
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Ferencz Dominguez was just one of the competitors in the 36-hour competition that kicked off on May the 4th, designed to advance technology through the creation of innovative solutions. Those solutions — crafted during the L3 WESCAM-hosted HackWESCAM hackathon at the company’s head office in Burlington — saw top teams walk away with prize money. However, as Dominguez puts it, those who didn’t earn a financial prize also took home something equally important.
“It was a great experience as my first Hackathon, and I really appreciate L3 WESCAM for letting us participate in it,” said Dominguez, a second-year electronics systems engineering student at Conestoga College, who was also recently named president of the Conestoga Engineering Society. “I highly encourage anyone interested in coding to try this kind of event. It’s an incredible experience to develop new skills, meet awesome people and challenge yourself.”
Not unlike a marathon – from which the term hackathon derived the latter part of its name – the hackathon is a gruelling 36-hour sprint to the finish. The inaugural HackWESCAM saw 39 students and recent graduates from colleges and universities come together to showcase the collective minds and extreme talent of 9 teams who took inventive ideas and quickly turned them into working prototypes.
These machines ran the gamut of optical engineering, artificial intelligence, image sciences, high-speed processing and deep learning. Organizers say the event provides students with not only the opportunity to innovate, but also to lead. A diverse group of initiatives led to amazing new concepts, and engineering leaders and technology experts took a multi-faceted approach to finalist selection, judging the teams on categories based on potential impact, technological design and innovation, business design and the overall human experience.
In the end, team WeCycle took home the first prize of $4,000. Team members were: Hira Nadeem, Aly Khalifa, Liubov Trofimova, and Tyvaughn Holness. The team successfully designed a mobile app that can scan an item and determine if it is recyclable or not. The technology would then determine the appropriate recycling bin to put the item in. The app would be distributed by municipalities and would ultimately use geo-tagging to ensure the correct recycling rules for the municipality were in effect.
Aly Khalifa, a member of WeCycle, as well as a biomedical engineering student at McMaster University, said he was proud of his team’s accomplishments during the hackathon. Most significantly, he explains, was how the team managed to create something that could very easily be used in everyday life, but still have a significant and tangible social impact. But perhaps most exciting for Khalifa — besides the prizes money — was what he and his colleagues learned during the course of those 36 hours.
“Participating in the hackathon pushed us outside of our comfort zones and allowed us to learn skills we would not have otherwise been exposed to,” he said. “We learned that most of the time when we are presented with a problem, we will not necessarily have all the skills or knowledge needed to solve it. Acquiring those are all part of the problem-solving process.”
The second prize of $2,000 went to team WeScan — the event’s only all-female team — which built a mobile app that can recognize inventory parts visually and provide logistics information on the item.
Third place, with a prize of $1,000 went to team EmoteAl, which built a system for police body cams capable of determining the emotion of the person in the picture. The system would then enable an automatic call for support if the officer is dealing with an angry person.
Parsa Beheshti, a member of team EmoteAl and an undergraduate student at McMaster University, said the group’s biggest achievements was working “extremely cohesively”, despite a lack of experience working together, to pool their collective knowledge of the software and hardware at hand. Beheshti also praised the event for providing participants with something more important than a cash prize.
“Experience from this hackathon is extremely applicable in our future careers due to the trend in integration of image processing and artificial intelligence in technology,” Beheshti said. “This experience has opened us up to working further with the technology used during the hackathon, which can open more doors down the road as our skills grow more diverse.”
Speaking of students and a showcase of collective minds and extreme talent, we can’t go without mentioning our very own co-op student extraordinaire, Anthony Crudo. It was his vision that brought this event to life as he spearheaded this project. Thanks to Anthony our first HackWESCAM event was a huge success.
The event was all documented on social media with the hashtag HackWESCAM. To check out some more images and some of the contestants posts, search your favourite social channel for #HackWESCAM.