FINHACKS: Students Enjoy Invaluable Creative and Collaborative Learning Experience with Cisco and TD

Posted on November 30, 2016

This past weekend, on the 29th floor of a building overlooking downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario, 150 post-secondary students congregated to create software and hardware solutions that would propose ways the Internet of Things (IoT) and financial technologies could intersect to meet the needs of individuals, families, and businesses.

The participants, who came from close to 20 colleges and universities from across Ontario, certainly came prepared. They arrived with sleeping bags, pillows, and toiletries alongside screwdrivers, soldering irons and other software and hardware tools they planned to use. They were focused on having a good time and finishing among the top three teams that would claim the $10,000 in prizes.

Close to 30 teams registered on Friday night with participants that ranged from laid-back seasoned hackers to anxious first-timers. But all were enthusiastic about starting the 36+ hour task ahead. At FINHACKS they would have to learn to work with others, share their ideas and compromise in order to develop a creative and working prototype over a very short period of time.

For the students, the exercise of ideating, developing and presenting their ideas to a panel of industry experts is itself invaluable. The best ideas, quality of presenters or complexity of the solutions are no guarantees of success; instead, the teams who find the right balance of answering the competition’s judging criteria while innovating and pushing boundaries are the ones that usually find themselves celebrating.

By Sunday morning, 22 teams successfully created working concepts and were able to move on. Despite the long hours, the energy level remained high as solutions were presented to the first round of judges during a science fair-like expo. From that, the top 10 teams would then pitch to the final Dragon's Den panel of judges.

The final 10 teams presented to Paul Semak, the Vice-President of Central Canada Operations for Cisco, Helen Kontozopoulos, the Director and Co-Founder of Global Smartweek and the University of Toronto Computer Science Innovation Lab, and Jeff Martin, the Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at TD. Not an easy group to impress…

Ultimately, after a series of great presentations, the judges awarded: • Third place to team Nanohack, students from the University of Waterloo who developed a tool using the nascent Physical Web and Web Bluetooth technologies to make banking more convenient by offering proximity-driven apps to reduce wait time, attract new customers and incentivize feedback of service quality. • The second place award went to the Dept. of Missing Semicolons, a group of students from Sheridan College who created a proximity based person-to-person payment app. •Finally, the first place winners were team TD Strip, a group that created an application to go along a piece of hardware that would help kids, youth, non-profits and small businesses remain motivated to better manage their account by setting various objectives.

Cisco Canada and TD are inspired by the participants’ innovative ideas and grateful for their dedication and time to dreaming up the future of IoT and FinTech.

Congratulations to all participants!

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