CUTC infects students with love for technology

Weekend-long conference helps students form connections and participate in a Facebook  hackathon.

By: Ani Hajderaj, Staff Writer

Bob Richards was awarded a red cape for his contributions to the conference. All speakers received super hero capes at CUTC Infect 2013. Image courtesy of Ani Hajderaj

Bob Richards was awarded a red cape for his contributions to the conference. All speakers received super hero capes at CUTC Infect 2013. Image courtesy of Ani Hajderaj

The 13th edition of the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference (CUTC) was held at Ryerson University on May 4 and 5, with participants noticing many changes to the conference overall. Designer Rishabh Varshney chose to use the sphere as a symbol to symbolize the earth therefore showing that technology has a global impact, along with using a mostly red colour scheme.

“CUTC has always been content driven, so we stripped everything down to basic forms and we approached it with a minimalist design,” says Varshney. “We came to this modern approach to the overall design so everything was simplified.”

The whole idea behind the theme “infect” was for participants to spread their enthusiasm about technology.

The conference also spread its infectious nature across the country.

“This year we focused on making it a national conference and bringing in international speakers. We also tried hosting the conference in Vancouver, which has the second highest population density in Canada and also one of the major tech scenes in Canada,” said Arshdeep Sidhu, lead organizer of the conference.

The conference was organized with keynote speakers from various industry professionals and educators. After the keynote speeches, students broke out into sessions that included demonstrations on how to use development tools.

“It’s to connect students to industry professionals and to bridge that gap. I think as a conference has really been able to do that,” says Sidhu.

In-between Saturday and Sunday there was a hackathon hosted by Facebook, which started at 6 p.m. and it ended at 10 a.m. the next day.

University of Toronto student, Ashni Shah, was one of the participants of the hackathon. She feels hackathons are a great way to learn more about development and coding because of the hands on approach.

“I find one of the best ways to learn more about technology and computer science is to go do and practice things,” she said. “Hackathons are a really good way to explore different options.”

Shah and her team developed a program called “PickMe” and it allows for companies to run social media-driven contests in one platform.

“It’s a cross-platform contest entry manager. As a company you can hold a contest across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a lot of other websites,” she said. “They collect all entries from across the board and count them towards a single prize.”

Hackathons are designed so contestants think on the fly with a time limit so it ends up being a character building experience.

“When you are applying for jobs they want to see examples of your work. You can say ‘I got straight As’ and have no creativity, no idea how to build your own application and it just works out better if you have stuff to show employers,” she said. “I am definitely planning to attend more hackathons.”

She described her experience as exhausting and maddening but rewarding at the same time. A lot of things were going on as everyone in the room were working on programs.

“Facebook came in every hour or so for prize draws so we decided to move into a quieter space. It became more of a hang-out with coding on the side because we were exhausted and we had to design the entire project, but we had a great time. We laughed more than I could remember laughing which is a good thing,” she said.

If you are interested in technology and development the CUTC is a great conference to expand your knowledge and network.

Ani Hajderaj is a journalism student involved in the electronic music scene in Toronto.

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