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AI Hackathon 2019

Publication Date: Jan 09, 2020
 

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Written by: Jacquie Cremona Crossey

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Late November set the stage for the yearly appointment of the AI Hackathon, now in its fourth edition organized by MITA in collaboration with the Department of Artificial Intelligence within the Faculty of Information & Communication Technology (FICT) of the University of Malta, and the Google Developers Group (Malta).

The 45-hour Hackathon which traditionally takes place on the last weekend of November kicked off with a different formula this time around, as 55 very enthusiastic students arrived at Sir Temi Zammit Hall on the University Campus on November 13th for a 2 hour “Unconference” workshop which brought together 3 short presentations from various different areas providing “food for thought” about useful topics and creative thinking ideas when it comes to the design of a digital game.  During this 2-hour workshop which forms part of the overall 45-hour AI Hackathon, the students also had the opportunity to vote on a potential overall theme for the games which they would ultimately develop during the remaining 43 hours over the weekend of November 29th through to December 1st.

AI Hackathon 3.jpgThe participants arrived at the Faculty of ICT, at the University of Malta at around 18:00 hours.  Once they had settled in, Ms Natalie Denk, Head of Department of Applied Game Studies at Donau University, Krems, Austria gave them an inspirational talk, tips and tricks about how to “survive” the next 43 hours of the AI Hackathon, and the various emotions they would experience during this time.  This followed by a 2-hour Design Sprint armed the participants with the necessary tools to “take the deep dive”, complete the task at hand, and create a functional prototype of a digital game with under pinning concepts of AI.  Each team was assigned a theme around which to build their game, and this year the 3 overall themes were chosen from the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, namely:

·       Quality Education;

·        Gender Equality, and;

·        Life Below Water.

AI Hackthon 2.jpgThe weekend progressed very smoothly with the participants fully prepared for the task at hand and ready to experience the pressure of performance and the lack of sleep which go hand in hand with the proposed challenge.  Through this fun learning experience, all the participants will no doubt draw on this experience once they embark on their future careers when faced with the need to apply soft skills such as team work, problem solving, communication and critical thinking among others.

The first prize was awarded to Team 8 with their game called “Deep Blue”, which was themed around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of Life Below Water.  These students will be attending a 2-day seminar delivered by Eugene Pfister, of the Bern University of Arts.  This seminar will take place this summer at Donau University in Krems, Austria.  They have also been awarded automatic access to temporary summer work placements within the Student Placement Programme 2020.  The 2nd prize winners for their game titled “Unfair Journey” themed around Gender Equality, won temporary summer work placements at the Faculty of Information & Communication Technology through the Student Placement Programme next summer, while the 3rd prize went to Team 4 for their game “Duo”, also themed around Gender Equality.  These also won automatic temporary summer work placements through the Student Placement Programme this summer.