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Brilliant youths hack-tivate minds - Teens unveil app creations for competition

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Javon Phidd (left) listens to a query from Julian Robinson, minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, and a member of the panel of judges, during the pitching session of the Hacking Generation Y Hackathon held at Start-Up Jamaica in Kingston earlier this month.
Jadan Johnson (left), CEO of Vybz Media Group, speaks with Julian Robinson, state minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, at the end of the closing ceremony of the Hacking Generation Y Hackathon held on April 12 at the Start-Up Jamaica offices in downtown Kingston.
Flanked by Julian Robinson (left), state minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, and Troy Bygrave (right), business relationship and sales manager, Jamaica National Building Society, members of the winning app development team Code Veterans – (from second left) Shumba Brown, Gavin Smith, Howard Johnson, and Dane Edwards – are all smiles following their first-place finish in the Hacking Generation Y Hackathon.

FOUR STUDENTS from Jamaica College emerged winners of the first Hacking Generation Y Hackathon held in Jamaica, with their creation of an app which aims to simplify the career selection process for students.

The students - Shumba Brown, Gavin Smith, Howard Johnson, and Dane Edwards, of the team Code Veterans - were the leaders in the 30-hour hackathon organised by Jadan Johnson, CEO of Vybz Media Group, which took place at Start-Up Jamaica, located in the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) offices in downtown Kingston, on April 11 and 12.

Brown said the inspiration for the app came from the fact that many teens had difficulty deciding on careers.

"Our app gives students an opportunity to seek internships in businesses, to receive first-hand experience in the career that they wish to explore," he explained.

Following the design of their app, on April 12, the team, along with nine others, pitched ideas to a panel of judges, which included Julian Robinson, state minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, and Dwayne Samuels, developer of the Grikly app.

Team SINGCH, comprising Chanderpaul Sutton, Inzingah McCarthy, Niko Lloyd Campbell, and Grace-Ann Brown, received the second-place award with their Blind Sight app, which uses the GPS and vibration features of the Pebble Smartwatch to help to guide visually impaired persons.

The hackathon, which does not involve computer hacking, was co-sponsored by several entities, including Jamaica National Building Society, Google, and Digicel Jamaica. In addition, Start-Up Jamaica provided mentorship support to the participants.

"I am looking forward to more local hackathon events being held to encourage young developers who have good ideas," Robinson said.

He further acknowledged that, like Start-Up Jamaica, "the hackathon provides the platform to move ideas from simply being ideas to become business concepts that are consistent with what we are doing at Start-Up Jamaica. And that is to provide the mentorship and support for young entrepreneurs."

Johnson, head of Hacker Experience and organiser of the event, said the turnout was more than expected, with in excess of 52 participants, ranging from 13 to 23 years old, taking part in the hackathon.

"I never knew that the day would come when I'd see teenagers working so hard to make a pitch. I am really excited to see what happens. And, I hope that some of our participants will delve in to teach entrepreneurship," he stated.

Troy Bygrave, business relationship and sales manager at JNBS, emphasised that Jamaica National, which supported the event by providing two floors of its Duke Street office in Kingston, saw the hackathon as "a natural extension of our support of activities that empower our young people through innovation in technology.

"Hack Gen Y also falls naturally within our own mandate to expand the emphasis on technology to improve our customer experience and services to members," he stated.

The Hacking Generation Y series is an international movement that targets high-school students globally, and began in Silicon Valley, California, in January.

Johnson said plans are currently under way to organise another local event soon, while preparing the winning team for possible entry into a Hacking Generation Y event to be held in Israel in June.

"Hacking Generation Y is now a global brand, and several international events will be held around the globe throughout this year," he said.