Students to tackle real world problems at Canadian contest

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Technology students will have a chance to prove their mettle in a new design contest that pits their wits, skills and training against real world workplace problems.

The competition, dubbed the TechTeam challenge, will be hosted by the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference (CUTC) during the organization’s annual convention to be held from January 11 to 13 at the Hilton Hotel in Toronto.

Since its creation by three University of Waterloo students in 1999, the CUTC has provided students with various opportunities to meet and interact with researchers and technology leaders.

Students can sign in for the contest when they register online to attend the CUTC convention.

Contestants will work in groups of 10 on an assigned problem and will be given a set time to produce feasible solutions. The problems will come from case studies presented by conference sponsors such as Lenovo Canada, Advance Micro Devices, Infusion Development Corp., and the Centre for Business and Entrepreneurship at the University of Waterloo.

At least 500 students are expected to take part in the competition according to Mahtab Ghamsari, a computer engineering student at the University of Waterloo and CUTC’s public relations executive.

Students from different schools are teamed up. The exercise is made authentic by handing them problems currently being tackled by the companies involved, said Ghamsari. “The students get to feel what it’s really like to interact with diverse personalities to solve an existing problem.”

Companies providing the case studies also benefit from the “creative input” provided by the contestants.

As in previous CUTC events, a host of activities, seminars and discussion panels are also lined up for the three-day convention but this is the first time TechTeam is going to be held.

Among this year’s keynote speakers are: Professor John Polanyi, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and faculty member of the department of chemistry at the University of Toronto; Peter Hortensius, senior vice-president, notebook business unit, Lenovo; David Orton, executive vice president, AMD; Doug Cooper, country manager, Intel Canada, and Roger Skubowius, engineering manager, Google Canada Inc. Delegates gain hands on experience with new technology at the on-site labs featured at TechShops, a collection of interactive workshops where participating organizations introduce, promote and highlight their products.

Past TechShops included a 3D animation crash course using the Maya animation tool from Autodesk Inc. and an Eclipse Web tool tutorial from IBM.

“Apart from being exposed to the new technology, previous CUTC events I joined allowed me to meet and exchange ideas with industry leaders,” said Ghamsari. For others, she added, the event was the “perfect opportunity to land a better co-op job.”

Google’s Skubowius, a University of Waterloo graduate himself, agrees with Ghamsari. “We hope to be able to talk to students, impress upon them the unique environment and work culture at Google, and hopefully entice a few to work with us.”

Skubowius said – among other things – he’s going to talk about Google’s ongoing research projects.

The conference will help shape the thoughts of students about their careers and provide undergraduates with a better perspective of how the industry is changing,” said Skubowius.

“While still in their undergraduate years, students will have a chance to connect with industry leaders,” he added.

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