Student team from Software Developer program places second at national Hackathon

Originally posted: April 23, 2021

Usually when you see “404 Not Found” pop up on your screen it isn’t a welcome sight; but in this case it’s something to celebrate.

404 Not Found is the team name of four MITT students from the Software Developer diploma program—Adam Isaak, Chao Chen, Katherine Desrosiers, and Navneet Kaur—who competed in iQmetrix’s first-ever Hackathon earlier this month and came away with a second-place finish in the competition.

The iQmetrix Hackathon, which took place April 1-9, saw 27 teams from across Canada compete for cash prizes. 404 Not Found was assembled through an application process, and its four-student team, who sacrificed the last days of Spring Break to take part, quickly came together.

For Desrosiers, the Hackathon was a new challenge, but one she was eager to engage in. “I chose to participate because I had never done anything like it before,” she says. “I decided that it was finally time to put myself out there and see what I'm capable of.”

“I wanted to experience the real-world programming in this competition and to feel how being a developer feels like,” Kaur adds. “So, I just eagerly took the challenge without any expectations of winning or price, I just wanted to give my best, have some experience, and meet the people who are doing the things that I want to do one day.”

The team, led by instructor Jessica Watson, created a software solution (iQbot) for iQmetrix, a leading retail management solutions provider, and their wireless retail clients that could resolve issues arising amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.

After discussing among themselves and consulting with their families for possible scenarios, 404 Not Found developed a chatbot that allowed customers to find solutions for their shopping and research needs.

Creating the platform involved four crucial steps:

  1. Researching how to implement an AI (Artificial Intelligence) solution;
  2. Finding open-source software libraries;
  3. Creating the custom-build application; and
  4. Training their chatbot on customer queries and human speech.

With the platform in place, 404 Not Found set to work on their next task—creating a five-minute presentation video that demonstrated their chatbot. This step was invaluable and drew from their experience in the Presentation and Communications Skills course they took in class. (Watch the video here.)

404 Not Found got through the first round of judging and moved to the second leg of the competition against four other teams. Here, they once again tapped into their presentation and comms skills as they prepared to speak live to the jury of senior-level iQmetrix experts.

“The most exciting part of the competition was easily the final pitch, as there was a sudden mounting of tension as we realized we had the opportunity to win,” Isaak commented. “It was tense and exciting, but worth it in the end.”

Watson says she admired how the students performed during this intense round.

“It made them stand out from the competition,” she said. “They came out confident, smiling and relaxed. They knew how to use signalling and sign-posting phrases, which made them look really professional.”

The feedback from the jury was equally praiseful.

"Your presentation was excellent. You could really tell that you gelled as a team, you were very well organized, and everything about your presentation was just inspiring,” the panel said. “I think you did a good job of identifying a problem and coming up with a solution towards that. You should be very proud of the work that you put in."

The second place finish by 404 Not Found earned the four students $2,500 toward their tuition or other expenses.

Along with the competition, Isaak, Chen, Desrosiers and Kaur had the opportunity to work with industry experts in one-on-one mentoring sessions and connect with tech-focused thinkers in a broad community.

“Mentorship gives us important guidelines, such as the client needs to embed into other applications,” Chen says. “The AI model needs much data to train. We improved our prototype a lot with [the client’s] help.”

The iQmetrix Hackathon may be done but the opportunities within the Software Developer diploma program are just starting.

“I’m already telling the group of students in their first term about [404 Not Found’s] success, and their success with communication skills,” Watson says. “If there are more opportunities in the future I’ll recommend students do it, and have more than one team participate.”

The opportunity to participate in Hackathons and similar competitions augments the advantage MITT Software Developer diploma have, as they gain top-tier technical and soft skills, and real-world experience through a work practicum—all in just one year of training.  

Registration is now open for the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 Software Developer diploma program. Click here to learn more.  

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