We asked Systems Developer Leonie Baker all about the Hackathon she attended in Birmingham, along with several members of the Department, Eddie Hounsell, Paul Cairns, Deniz Whelan, Sacha Goodwin and Llew-Ann Koh. Below is her account of the day:

On 26 November six members of the Computing Services team traversed to the Malmaison Hotel in Birmingham to participate in the first ever ANS group HE Hackathon. We were joined by a number of other university teams, including Nottingham, with whom we were lucky enough to share a table, Keele, Nottingham Trent, Sheffield Hallam, City, Goldsmiths, Sunderland, Staffordshire, Manchester Metropolitan, Birmingham, Birmingham City, Westminster and Coventry.

The aim of the day was to come up with some creative and innovative solutions to utilise AI to improve students’ experiences, both before, during and after their time at University. Backed up by some predictions from the World Economic Forum for the near future, the ANS group gathered HE staff to consider the need to not only cater for student requirements whilst at their institution of choice, but also how to prepare students for the world after graduation and the changing skills required in the workplace with the emergence of technology.

Highlights of the day included Andrew Proctor of Staffordshire delivering a fantastic talk on their newly developed Digital Coach, BEACON – “the world’s first AI driven digital coach and assistant”. Attendees were also treated to a real-time example from ANS transforming the Coventry University IT knowledge base into a chatbot to assist the service desk with FAQs; the bot was functional in under two minutes using Microsoft Bot Framework and Azure Cognitive Services. ANS provided several takeaway blueprints including solutions for smart parking, smart buildings and digital coaching, which can be found on their website or floating around the third floor of 4 East South.

While we didn’t win any prizes (hearty congratulations to City and Goldsmiths Universities on their joint win), we did have a great day out and a chance to showcase our presentation skills and ability to think on our feet. It was also a brilliant opportunity to meet other HE technical staff and share common stories. For the full ANS write-up check this website.


Posted in: Corporate Applications & Databases, Digital Data & Technology Group


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