STEMUP Educational Foundation, the non-profit organization with a focus on furthering Scientific, Technological, Engineering, and Mathematical (STEM) knowledge among Sri Lankan students, has successfully concluded the Hack:AI 2021 hackathon, held in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka and in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM). Hackathon was powered by SLT-Mobitel, Trainocate Lanka, Altria Consulting, and Impact IT Solutions as the main sponsors.
The objective of Hack:AI 2021 was to provide a platform for school and university students to join the national movement that drives social impact in tackling some of the challenges related to selected Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).This unique event helped young innovators in the country to come up with innovative solutions using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Science and Machine Learning for present day challenges such as Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and Life on Land.
Hack:AI was able to reach a wider audience and provide a level playing field by separating into two categories – ‘School’ category for students aged 13 to 18 and ‘University’ category for students aged 19 to 25 years. Having launched in October 2021, the competition ran for a period of 6 months providing the opportunity for its 100+ participants to interact with top local and international industry experts through mentoring sessions while designing, testing, and improving on their project solutions in their efforts to achieve their objective of boosting sustainable living. An Ideathon was held for participants from the School category where the youngsters were challenged to develop fresh solutions to solve existing challenges in their communities. Competitors from the University category took part in a Datathon where they were given a dataset and a limited amount of time to use their creativity and data science skills to build, test, and explore solutions. The Panel of Judges, which comprised of industry experts and academics in the respective fields, focused on Problem Identification, Critical thinking/Problem-Solving Skills, Innovativeness of the solution and applications of AI in choosing the best solutions from each category.
The Finalists in the University Category witnessed five teams – Binary Brains (SLIIT), PROSTASIA (University of Colombo), AlgoPirates (University of Peradeniya), Go Viral (University of Kelaniya) and Eureka (University of Peradeniya) – compete for top honours with PROSTASIA (University of Colombo) being picked as the Winner. In the School category, BitbyBit (Lyceum International School), SkillVisor (Gateway College, Colombo), Gogreen Technologies (Boys’ School, Malabe), Calori (Gateway College, Colombo) and Code Annites (St.Anne’s College, Kurunegala) were chosen as the Finalists with Calori (Gateway College, Colombo)coming out on top.
Sharing his thoughts on the successful event, Prabhath Mannapperuma – Director of STEMUP Educational Foundation stated, “Hack:AI 2021-2022 is yet another initiative of STEMUP to get students interested in STEM education as early as possible in their lives. This event has helped to nurture all participants in multiple ways primarily by enhancing their critical thinking abilities, as well as their leadership, creativity, entrepreneurial and collaboration skills. It is important that Sri Lanka’s youth keeps up with the rest of the world by focusing on becoming more innovative and entrepreneurial while leveraging the power of state-of-the-art technology to address the most critical challenges facing the world today in a sustainable manner. We are proud to see that Hack:AI was able to provide these talented youth with a platform to showcase their abilities as they engaged with top experts in the field to learn and develop their solutions further. It was exciting to witness the wide variety of innovative solutions that were seen across both categories and it certainly augers well for the future of STEM education in Sri Lanka.”
The STEMUP Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inspire and engage students to become interested in pursuing Scientific, Technological, Engineering, and Mathematical (STEM) degrees and careers. The organization’s mission is fulfilled through the programs and resources they offer to the South Asian community. The Foundation has educational opportunities and resources for all. Most of its resources are also offered free-of-charge as a part of the vision of becoming a national model for passionate support for STEM education.