Sun | Nov 28, 2021

UTech students in finals of IBM coding competition

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 10:43 AM
(From left) Final year engineering students at the University of Technology, Jamaica, Odain Brown, Juleen Gentles, Joshua Thompson, and Roshelle Pinnock. They were selected as finalists in the 2020 IBM Developer Call for Code Global Challenge, University Edition for their Plant-IT mobile app - Contributed photo.

Jason Cross, Gleaner Writer

A four-member team of students of the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) has made it through to the finals of the 2020 IBM Developer Call for Code Global Challenge, University Edition.

The challenge pushes students to use artificial intelligence and data to come up with global solutions to fight climate change and COVID-19. 

A virtual awards show will take place today.

UTech's team, comprising final year engineering students Juleen Gentles, Rochellee Pinnock, Joshua Thompson and Odain Brown, was chosen for the finals based on their work in creating their Plant-It mobile app. 

Plant-It is aimed at helping to push back against climate change by providing a solution that helps citizens grow their own food. 

The capabilities of Plant-It range from receiving seedlings to designing garden spaces on a smartphone and an auction system to sell food in local communities. 

The other finalists are from the University of the Andes & Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Columbia, University of Wolverhamton in the United Kingdom, University of California, Berkeley, United States and the University of Sydney in Australia.

Acting UTech president, Professor Colin Gyles, said that the placement of the students in the finals highlights the university as a creator of innovators and entrepreneurs.

"The students developed an innovation that allows householders to be involved in producing food crops at home to solve part of the problem of transporting foods stuff and the challenges of using plastics and so on. They seek to solve part of the global food security challenge while maintaining a healthy environment and minimising the carbon footprint caused by the transportation of food over long distances. We are proud of them for their successes.

"We are pleased that they have taken this training beyond the walls of the university and into the wider society and into the international space. This is very big for UTech because it shows that right here in Jamaica at UTech we are able to think globally, while acting locally, to solve problems that can be applied further afield in helping to strengthen the economic base of countries while responding to global challenges," he said, sharing that UTech is proud to have them as part of their Sagicor Innovation Lab.

Gentles said he is honoured to be part of a unit that is keeping Jamaica "on the map", adding that the achievement demonstrates that UTech can compete against the most prestigious universities across the globe.

Over 4,000 universities entered the competition.

"They had quite a few interesting judges for the competition. Bill Clinton, former president of the United States, was one of the judges. It is an honour to know that people who have made waves in society and who have established themselves can look at these solutions we students have made and see value in it and believe that it should be placed at the top."

Success is no stranger to the members of the team.

In 2018, Gentles alongside Thompson and Brown entered a United Nations (UN) sponsored global hackathon and in 2019, they were inducted as UN youth experts on technology and agriculture.

Pinnock, the fourth member of the team, is a climate change and sustainable development advocate who has done work with the Clinton Global Initiative.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at or