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Giving Back

TechUnder 20 Cup 2017 & 2018 Recap

By | Giving Back, RedBit | One Comment

TechUnder 20 is an organization that has the aim of exposing youth to the technology world and has been running since about 2015. It is currently lead by Denys Linkov who is now at UofT in Computer Science but he joined when he was in highschool.

I’m a believer that not everyone should be coding (and yes I’m a coder since 14) and there are a lot of other opportunities available in the tech industry besides coding. That’s why I have been supporting TU20 both personally (when ever I can) and under RedBit by sponsoring, giving presentations on resume building, sharing contacts in industry and mentoring teams competing in TU20 Cup or just giving advice on what to do and how to get into the industry.

TU20 Cup 2017 Edition

In the 2017 TU20 Cup, I had a team called Team NextGen and they built a prototype of a tutoring platform to help in high school students get tutoring. What was great about this idea was tutors would be students helping other students and all would be done via mobile app. They were so eager and enthusiastic to build a mobile app, but with a limited amount of time and no one on the team ever having built a mobile app this presented a slight challenge. What most of them did have was photoshop skills and some did have coding skills but mostly python and PHP which probably would not help in building the app.

My role as a mentor was to help them going on the right track, so what I suggested is come up with an ideal flow of the app, figure out the screens for the app. And this is exactly what they did

I recommended they build it out using a tool like Proto.io. This is exactly what they did and resulted in this video

Once this was completed they needed to come up with a pitch which included a business model or how they would make money. The presented their concept at the Microsoft offices and did a fantastic job in the preliminaries earning a spot in the finals

In the end, the team placed second place behind a web application called StarSpeak which was a working prototype to help people present with confidence.

Amazing job by the team and this year some are off to university or finishing up highschool and continuing their journeys. Here is the 2017 team

  1. Justin Chan
  2. Andy Yang
  3. Eric Lin
  4. Ahmed Elmarsafawi
  5. Mohamed Elmarsafawi
  6. Aaron Chu

This is a perfect example of how you don’t need to be a coder to be in the technology industry and there are so many other fields in the tech industry that new comers can enter from design to coding to marketing/pitching!

TU20 Cup 2018

The 2018 TU Cup was recently held at the Microsoft offices, and thanks to Microsoft for providing the space again! This year I had a team of four highschool students and was excited to help them out. Some of them did have coding experience and the theme for this year was Smart Cities. The team was call Team Road Alerts.

This year, [GEOTAB](https://www.geotab.com] was involved as a sponsor and opened up their big data pool to be used. With over 900,000+ devices on the road, they collect 2billion records per day and can use AI and Machine learning to predict certain scenarios.

The idea that the team came up with is notifying people and municipalities when there are potholes recognized in the system. So users would sign up for the server and provide proactive maintenance instead of being reactive and waiting for citizens to report. Now because the GEOTAB devices have an accelerometer, they can ‘predict’ if the pothole is a major one or a minor one which means the system can notify at certain levels only.

This year they did get a working prototype going but did not get everything done for the competition and considering they were juggling school and everything else, I think that is fine!

And in the end all the hard work paid off and they came in third place overall and came in first place for the highschool division.

Here is the 2018 participating team
1. Angela Efremova
2. Dimitry Linkov
3. Alexander Tingling
4. Cameron Humes

Giving Back

As technology leaders, we should always give back for the next generation. I expose my kids to technology (and I’m sure they are tired of hearing me!) but I think we should do what we can to help and guide the future generation and get down the right path, even if that path is not being a developer. Definitely looking forward to TU20 Cup 2019!

Our Summer with a High School Intern

By | Giving Back, RedBit | No Comments

This summer 2017, we decided to hire a student, Jeff Awobodu, to help us out on RedBit customer projects. I meet him from a presentation I did at Tech Under 20 event where I tried to answer the question on ‘What are the Kinds of questions I need to prepare for if I am having an interview at a tech company’.

I was one of about 5 presenters and I was quoted as saying the following

And that’s how I truly feel. Even as an intern, if you work at RedBit you will be asked to work on real life projects and that is what we did with Jeff. If you are curious, you can download the presentation from slideshare.

Jeff’s Background

Jeff was not a developer but did take a few programming classes in high school. I noticed he did like art and when he sat at my table after the presentation we talked about his work. One of the projects that intrigued me was he build a motorized longboard that was connected to a remote, same type of remote you use for a RC Car.

I decided to hire Jeff for the summer, to help out on customer projects because of his enthusiasm. Here is a pic of Jeff and his long board and love how it was held by duct-tape

Design Sessions

At RedBit, when building software products, we hold design sessions to try and envision what the customer might want as usually they come with a vision but not really knowing what they need from a design perspective (UX or UI design) or from a technology perspective, sometimes we just get ‘I need an app!’. We decided to include Jeff in a project for one of our startup customers.

The design sprint included working with the customer, our designer, developer and Product Manager, to determine what was required for the software. This was a real life project affecting real customer outcomes and went great and the project is well under development now.

Testing

A great way to learn the software development process if you don’t really know how to code is to test software and work with QA. As a next step, we decided to put Jeff as part of the functional QA team to make sure developers are meeting functional requirements of software being delivered. The software being built was a React web application for an insurance company.

Using VSTS we had an existing board and explained the process of when a card should be picked up and sent back to dev with comments. That process was great, and he was efficient at communicating with dev team and pushing back ‘PR Bugs’ when something was not quite right.

At one point there was one bug card that was a small bug and since Jeff did do some HTML and JavaScript I asked him to spend the morning doing a fix for the bug. By the end he resolved the bug, committed code using git and the code ended up in dev branch. His comment :

I can’t believe I just created some code that is going to be on a company’s web application!

Giving Back

This is truly a great feeling to inspire someone to get into this industry, whether it’s as a developer, designer or anything else. As leaders in our field and in our community we need to expose kids and give them the opportunity to succeed. This includes interns where they are paid to work on real world projects and this is beneficial to everyone involved. Jeff is now in his first year studying Computer Science at Queens University, hoping we do another summer with Jeff!