Congratulations Electric Sheep

Posted on Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Written by Dan Gillis

Presentation of the first place award by The Honourable Tony Clement (center) to SoCS PhD Candidate Jason Ernst (left), and partner Carlos Saavedra (right).
Presentation of the first place award by The Honourable Tony Clement (center) to SoCS PhD Candidate Jason Ernst (left), and partner Carlos Saavedra (right).

Congratulations to PhD Candidate Jason Ernst, and University of Waterloo Masters student Carlos Saavedra - double winners at the nationwide Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) hackathon.

Jason and Carlos presented their app - newRoots - to a panel of judges Friday evening in Toronto. The app combines unemployment, labour force, climate, and income tax data, as well as municipal crime rates, average rental rates, and visibility minority population distributions to provide users with a list of 5 cities that best match their profile and priorities. The goal - link new Canadians to cities that will likely provide them the best chance of success.

When asked where the idea for newRoots came from, Ernst replied "We looked at the datasets and wondered what could make the most out of all the available options we had to work with. We were also motivated by the fact that both of Carlos's parents were immigrants to Canada, and we both work with many students who are not born in Canada."

Despite the tough competition - which came from all across Canada, and included apps that dealt with security, charity, employment, farming, and food - newRoots was selected as both Fan Favourite and First Place project. For their efforts, Jason and Carlos were awarded two cheques - one for $1000, and the second for $25000.

Ernst credits an active social media campaign, and the support of the School of Computer Science, the University of Guelph, and the University of Waterloo with their Fan Favourite win. Of course, the Fan Favourite was not the only prize they took home. "The grand prize announcement was surreal" Ernst commented, "there were lots of other really great apps. When we won, we were really excited about all the doors it could potentially open up."

How did his experiences in the School of Computer Science help? "The single biggest factor was the diverse experience I've had at Guelph. I've had the chance to work on such a variety of projects in such a range of fields, it lends itself very well to quickly solving an unknown problem which may span disciplines." Jason also identified several recent events that helped give him and Carlos a leg up on the competition, including the Open Data Day Hackathon (where Jason and Carlos placed 3rd), the CollabNow event hosted by the Entrepreneurship Society of the University of Guelph, and the Guelph Coding Community meetups.

"The best advice I have for any student is to get involved. There are so many great events at Guelph, from SoCS and from other departments that are useful. There are also lots of external events put on by the City of Guelph, and other community members, such as DemoCamps, IgniteGuelph and other meetups where you can bounce your ideas off other tech experts who are all really interested in seeing great ideas succeed. I've been going to as many of these as I could since I started at Guelph, and many of my ideas were really weak when I first started talking about them. Over time, you'll find with feedback, you'll discover tons of things you didn't even think of. The best thing is, once you learn this type of thinking - you can apply it new problems."

Congratulations again Jason and Carlos. Job very well done.

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