Liberty IT hosted a virtual Hackathon for 40 students from Ulster University with the aim of driving digital innovation in education by challenging them to create and develop functional tech by the end of the 12-hour event.
A Hackathon is an event which challenges participants to create an idea to solve or provide solutions to a problem. The virtual, real-time event gave the university students the opportunity to collaborate, experiment, learn and problem solve under the guidance of the industry leader in digital innovation.

Liberty IT worked with the students to give them a sense of solving a ‘real world’ company problem to help develop their learning and to better understand their approach to planning, problem solving and technology.

The participants were given a Product Vision Board in advance outlining the vision, problem statement, key metric and on the day they were put into five teams. At the end of the event each team had successfully produced a working prototype. The teams were assessed by judges on idea generation, teamwork and presentation and winners selected based on a number of key metrics.
The winners presented a User Interface (UI) prototype, which Liberty IT and the university can use in the future, that provides users the ability to submit their tech talk on a given day/time, review the tech talks for a given month and submit and review their attendance to a tech talk having completed a number of the key metrics from the Product Vision Board.

Brenda Campbell, Liberty IT’s Director of Engineering said: “At Liberty IT we really value our partnership with Ulster University School of Computing. This partnership affords us many opportunities including working with academics in module delivery, student mentorship programmes and Tech talks showcasing industry examples on topics like AI, Cloud Computing and Software Engineering practices. Most important of all is the year-long work placement programme. The Hackathon was a chance to engage with Ulster University in a different way, working directly with the student computer society to create an event where students could connect with industry in a fun way to solve a real business issue. It was a great success!”

Mark Skillen, Solutions Engineer at Liberty IT said: “I really enjoyed being able to plan and execute this event in partnership with the Ulster University. The numbers that registered and completed out the day speaks volumes to the high enthusiasm and levels of interest in working with industry to solve issues that we face. Students relish at the chance to get more closely connected to industry, understanding their approaches to planning, problem solving and technology and so we must continue to seek out these opportunities to work with them and give them this experience, it can only help us both in the longer term. Congratulations to our winning team - Callum O’Prey, Andrew Bradley, Amy Brown and Atif Hussain.”

Prof. Jonathan Wallace, Professor of Innovation and Chair of the Computing Employer Advisory Board at Ulster University said: “Hackathons are an excellent vehicle for our students to gain further valuable insight into industry needs as well as expanding their practical skills. They allow for cocreated ideation of innovative solutions to needs identified by the company partner involved and therefore not only expose the student to the company as a potential placement provider or future employer, but also directly benefit the company with potential concepts / solutions that they can take forward internally after the event.

The Ulster Computing Society is a student led group of enthusiastic self-motivated students and it was a pleasure to support them in partnership with Liberty IT in hosting the Hackathon and judging the outcomes from the teams.”
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