Community

Okanagan College Students Place 2nd in Canada at Hackathon

Unstumpable students code their way to second in Canada at 24-hour global hackathon .

For Okanagan College’s Kevin Hall, Brody Travis and Martin Wallace, you can’t stump the Unstumpable. The three computer science students placed second out of 74 teams nationally and an impressive 125th of 2,200 teams globally at the IEEEXtreme 10th annual student programming competition.

Earlier this fall, Unstumpable, along with four other teams of the College’s computer science students, battled sleep deprivation and students around the world in the 24-hour virtual coding competition put on by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which is the world’s largest association of technical professionals.

The contest - which transpires simultaneously worldwide - challenges teams of students to work collaboratively to solve a series of programming problems that are released over the duration of a day.

The four other Okanagan College teams placed 22, 25, 46 and 52 in Canada.

“We had a strategy going in as to how we would approach each question and we communicated well as a team,” explains Hall. “We started off strong and were in the top 15 worldwide after the first few questions, but the lack of sleep definitely impacted our problem-solving abilities.”

Unstumpable also put in hours of training in their spare time with professors Youry Khmelevsky, Ken Chidlow and Jim Nastos, who coached them and proctored the competition on campus.

“Participating in a competition like this is very rewarding for the students,” says Khmelevsky, Chair of the College’s Computer Science department and Chair, Okanagan Subsection of IEEE. “They can practically apply their skills, which shows them the immediate implications of their studies in the industry, in research and in competitions such as IEEEXtreme.”

To be eligible to participate in IEEEXtreme, students must be a member of an IEEE student branch. Okanagan College’s IEEE Student Branch, established in 2015, is part of the larger IEEE Okanagan Subsection, which currently has 50 active student members and 74 non-student members. The Subsection recently won Outstanding Small Technical Chapter and Khmelevsky was awarded Outstanding Volunteer at the 2016 AGM.

IEEE is the world’s leading professional association for the advancement of technology and has more than 400,000 members in 190 countries.

The College’s IEEE student branch grew out of a response to the increasing number of Computer Science students and the thriving tech industry in the Okanagan. The branch provides learning opportunities and financial support for competitions such as IEEEXtreme, which are an important practical application of their studies.

“These sorts of coding competitions help to equip students with the skills, languages, and processes to enter the fastest growing sector in the Okanagan,” explains Raghwa Gopal, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. “Okanagan College plays an important role in the community by helping to respond to the talent shortage by offering technical training, structured curriculum, and opportunities to complete project work with local companies."

Work demand is high in the Okanagan’s $1.3B technology industry, which is growing at 15 per cent per year, according to Gopal. Accelerate Okanagan’s job board has about 75 open jobs at technology enabled companies available at any given time. Though Wallace, Hall and Travis are second-year students, they all have held or are holding part-time jobs in Kelowna’s tech industry.

“It’s great because at the College you have the skills learning,” says Wallace. “At work, you have the business side of learning. You can see the full picture.”  

More information and a complete listing of the competition results can be found on the College’s Computer Science department’s website: www.okanagan.bc.ca/cosc or by visiting www.ieee.org/Xtreme.