Computer Science students cash in

Brock Computer Science students recently turned their coding skills into cash.

A team of five Computer Science students won the 24-hour RBC Next Great Innovator Challenge Nov. 21-22 and received a $10,000 prize. Another team of two Brock Computer Science students won the 24-hour Make it Mobile — RBC Digital Challenge Nov. 7-8 and received a $5,000 prize.

Matt Peskett and Peter Wilson, both fourth-year Brock Computer Science students on the Next Great Innovator team, were pleased with the benefits that such a high profile victory brought.

“It’s given us lots of confidence in our own abilities,” said Wilson.

The win has already paid dividends as far as future careers are concerned.

“It’s a great way to get our names out there. RBC has even expressed interest in our skills,” said Peskett.

The Next Great Innovator team, which produced a functioning 24-hour chat system between clients and wealth management advisers, stressed the importance of working together as a group. Peskett and Wilson were joined on the team by Ryan Spring, Mehrdad Arabpour and Karim Hamasni.

“Four of the five of us had worked together before. We complimented each other most of the time and clashed when it was necessary,” said Wilson.

Matt Billings, a fourth-year Brock Computer Science student on the Make it Mobile team, was equally excited about the confidence his team’s win had given him on a personal level.

“Sometimes when you have lots of assignments school can be overwhelming. Succeeding in the contest makes you feel that you are capable to do what you want. Winning makes you feel good — like finishing a marathon,” said Billings.

Billings and his teammate Karim Hamasni produced an app that used a client’s bank account transaction history to group purchases and generate reports.

Billings was quick to point out that it takes a special type of commitment to compete in competitions that have a 24-hour time limit.

“Making and refining a program in 24 hours was challenging, you need to be efficient, focused and willing to skip out on sleep,” he said.

He noted one of the hardest parts of the competition came at the end.

“Pitching to the judges was pretty nerve wracking. We were limited to a two-minute presentation and it’s tough trying to express what an app does in only two minutes,” said Billings.

One strategy that has been used to aid in the pitch process is bringing in help from other parts of the University. This was seen specifically at the Masters of Code competition in Montreal earlier this year, where the Computer Science team enlisted the help of former Monster Pitch winner and Goodman School of Business student Jonathan Holland to help with their pitch. The result was a third-place finish.

Participants on both recent winning teams hope that other students at Brock will also compete in external competitions to further the University’s status.

“We want to encourage more Brock Computer Science students, and any Brock students, to get out and prove themselves, test their skills and help build Brock’s reputation,” said Peskett.

Computer Science Chair Ke Qiu is proud of the students’ accomplishments.

“The recent wins at the RBC hackathons showcase our students’ strong teamwork and communication skills. As evidenced by these victories, our students are continuing to come out on top in relation to their counterparts throughout the province,” said Qiu.

Participants on both winning teams plan to spend their winnings on new equipment to further their computer science skills and careers.

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