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CSSA hosts app hackathon for future computer engineers and software developers

Kyle Hansford | Fulcrum Staff

IT’S NOT EVERY day you get a chance to see someone’s back end.

But that’s exactly what the Computer Science Student Association (CSSA) did as it hosted a Windows 8 hackathon to get a behind-the-scenes look at new Microsoft products.

A hackathon is an event in which computer programmers and others in the field of software development participate in a collaborative development project. The hackathon at the Faculty of Social Sciences building on March 23 gave students the opportunity, free of charge, to be introduced to Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system while also offering the tools and resources for students to begin developing their own apps.

Rogan Fergusson, a fourth-year computer sciences student and Microsoft student partner (MSP) responsible for organizing the event, said his goal was to get students interested in Microsoft products and involved in learning.

“It’s all about the learning process,” said Fergusson. “It’s really great to diversify yourself and grab that larger user base at the end of the day, so it’s really knowledge that I wanted to pass on to them.”

About a dozen people of varying computer skill levels turned out for the day-long event, which offered free food and drinks, door prizes, a hands-on with the new Microsoft Surface tablet, and a handful of free software. Thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and the Faculty of Engineering, the Telfer School of Management, and soon the Faculty of Science, students have access to a number of the company’s products.

Jean-Philippe Dubé, CSSA vp social and MSP, explained that the U of O’s computer sciences program allows students free access to all but a few Microsoft products, including Visual Studio, the tool used to program apps.

“They give a special code that waives the fee when we subscribe to it so students can publish apps for free as well,” he said.

Muniyat Haque, an international development student, attended as a new Windows 8 user hoping to further her knowledge of the software.

“I don’t know anything about Windows 8 and I thought I’d learn stuff,” she said. “They gave us a tutorial on how to use Windows 8 and I have no clue about anything on it, but it really helped. I’m basically here to learn.”

Second-year computer engineering student Saba Shaikh came to the event excited to learn about the new changes and updates made in Windows 8 and to begin developing her own apps.

“I’m thinking just to start off—because I’ve never done it before—maybe some organizational ones like to-do lists or agendas. I’m just going to start out small,” said Shaikh. “In class we don’t learn much about all these different companies, so through these kind of events we can really understand and get up to date on the new things that are out.”

With the success of local Ottawa companies like Shopify, a subscription-based platform for designing online stores, and Legitmix, a new take on legalizing music remixes that’s currently in beta, students who attend local hackathons can meet peers and gain contacts, valuable industry knowledge, and information about local opportunities.

Should attendance increase at U of O hackathons, Fergusson said he may eventually organize a meet-and-greet with industry professionals from Microsoft, Dropbox, Shopify, and more.

For more information on future events, email or download the Windows 8 app MSP Canada.


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