As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grow, the geekspeak team sought to harness its power for good in the third annual ‘Hack for Good’ hackathon. Taking place at the geekspeak office in Whitby, Ontario on March 22-23, ‘Hack for Good’ saw more than 60 participants – data scientists, computer programmers, designers and marketers – come together to tackle real-world problems with AI solutions.
What is a Hackathon?
A hackathon is a sprint-like event, typically lasting anywhere between 8 hours and several days, in which teams of people meet to engage in a computer programming task that tackles a determined theme or problem.
For three years now, geekspeak has hosted its ‘Hack for Good’ hackathon with the aim being to create an app or app prototype that solves a problem. This year, the theme of the event was ‘AI for Good,’ which meant teams had to leverage AI technology to solve a social, health or environmental challenge of their choosing.
Why AI as a Theme?
AI has very quickly come to the forefront as a truly disruptive technology. With advancements occurring every day, and schools and research centers placing a heavier focus on AI, it made sense to explore its power within the context of a hackathon.
geekspeak has also been exploring AI in eCommerce more thoroughly, with its own in-house data scientists and NLP (natural language processing) researchers. The choice of the theme came naturally, under both industry and internal lenses.
As in the previous years of ‘Hack for Good,’ participants started arriving at the geekspeak office at 9am on March 22, quickly filling up the room and enjoying a breakfast from Tim Hortons as they got settled. An exciting Opening Ceremony was attended by local politicians, and featured guest speakers, including Staples SVP and Chief Digital Officer Simon Rodrigue, Whitby Mayor Don Mitchell, and Durham College Professor and AI Hub Researcher Amit Maraj, who delivered the keynote speech.
Participants programmed away until 4pm on March 23, when all laptops were closed and presentations began. The team pitches were judged by Kristina Svana (Spark Centre), Isaac Wanzama (geekspeak Commerce), Dr. Andrew Hogue (Ontario Tech University) and Fatemeh Kazemi (geekspeak Commerce).
With the judges’ scores tallied by accounting sponsor SourcePoint Business Group, the winners were announced.
- 1st Place and Recipients of $5,000: Team Kenny et al, with a journaling app that uses sentiment analysis to help improve mental health treatment and outcomes
- 2nd Place and Recipients of a Staples Tech Bundle: The EH-Team, with an AI-powered trash collection and categorization machine that can collect and analyze data about cities’ garbage levels
- 3rd Place and Recipients of Staples Studio Access: Team SavourIT, with a computer vision app that classifies food in your fridge, notifying you when it’s about to expire and providing recipe options
geekspeak would like to thank its many sponsors for their contribution to and support of the third ‘Hack for Good,’ starting with the first-ever Presenting Sponsor, Staples Canada.
Stay tuned for information about next year’s ‘Hack for Good’ hackathon; date and theme to be determined!