Pace University Students Win IBM 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge

It’s our honor to congratulate four Pace University students on winning IBM’s 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge. Three Pace alumni, Ajinkya Datalkar ‘20 (MS in Computer Science), Manoela Morais ‘20 (MS in Financial Risk management), and Chimka Munkhbayar ‘20 (MS in Entrepreneurial Studies), worked in collaboration with one of our current students, Helen Tsai ‘21 (MS in Computer Science), to develop their game-changing project.

The team worked together to develop their app, Agrolly, with the intention of helping farmers with little resources combat issues caused by climate change. Unlike larger farming industries, small farming businesses have limited access to information that can increase their chances of making smarter business decisions. That’s where Agrolly comes into play.

The team’s app provides a low-cost solution to providing farmers with long-term weather forecasts that can be used to make better judgments about the crops they should grow and when they should grow them. Other features of the app include information about crop water requirements, which is dependent on factors such as location, the type of crop, and the stage of the farm. Additionally, farmers can use Agrolly to keep in contact with other farmers and share solutions using a text and image-based forum. Agrolly also has an algorithm in place to calculate most of the risk assessments for farmers using the app.

In response to the team’s major achievement, Seidenberg Dean Dr. Jonathan Hill says, “One of the really exciting things about our team’s win is that it was a combined team of Seidenberg students and Lubin students. One of the great values of a Pace education is that it can be so interdisciplinary. Our technology students benefit from working with students who are being educated in business, the arts, healthcare and the other disciplines at Pace. It makes for a real world experience and it makes for strong, winning teams.” IBM’s Call for Code Challenge offered Pace students of varying disciplines the opportunity to collaborate and make use of their unique skills and assets.

With the development of their app Agrolly, these students have made an impactful step towards addressing climate change, which is becoming more and more of a concerning issue. Our only hope is that their accomplishment inspires more students to make a positive change by finding solutions to real-world problems. Once again, congratulations to Team Agrolly and we hope to see this amazing app grow in both use and development.

I Went To A Hackathon and Actually Won, With Some Help Of Course…

On Saturday, February 29th, 2020, Pace University’s Women in Tech club held its first-ever hackathon, Sunflower Hack, on the New York City campus. This would be the second hackathon I attended as a sophomore at Pace. Unfortunately, despite anticipating the event throughout the week, when I arrived I was exhausted from completing an assignment the night before. At that moment, I feared that my lack of energy would prevent me from enjoying a day I’d been eagerly awaiting. However, it wasn’t long before I realized that wouldn’t be the case. Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to find an amazing group of smart and talented women who uplifted my spirits significantly. What started off as a presumably bad day ended up being quite the opposite. At the end of the hackathon, I left having won best theme hack alongside my newly-found team of Women in Tech members Nia Davis, Muirrin O’Connell, and Abbi Keppler.

During the week of the hackathon, I was so occupied with school, work, and family that it wasn’t until I got there that I realized I forgot one major thing: a team. While a majority of the participants were meeting up with their groups and strategizing, I was scanning the room for potential teammates. Following the opening remarks and an inspirational speech from Pace alumna Olga Bogomolova, I was finally able to start assembling a team. Although initially daunting, the process was actually a lot easier than I thought. Within five minutes I found an amazing team and we jumped straight into business.

After going through multiple ideas, we eventually decided on one that Abbi proposed and immediately got started. Our plan was to create an app called Cultivate that would help promote and encourage productivity in our target audience. Given that there are many apps that provide a similar service, we realized that in order to make ours unique, we needed to offer a noteworthy incentive for our users, something that we knew most people would enjoy. That’s why we agreed on making that incentive plants and animals. By completing tasks and staying productive, the user would then gain points towards buying new gear or upgrading their ideal plant or pet. Since the fundamental purpose of the app was decided on, we began to discuss potential features that could be useful to the app’s development. One such feature that we decided on including was a function that would allow users to sync their app calendar to the calendar on their mobile device, thus making it much easier to keep everything in one place. We also concluded that the app should have a feature that categorizes tasks by levels of priority so users can focus on completing their most important tasks first. During this brainstorming process, it was easy to think of even more useful functions, however, we decided that given the time that we had, it would be smarter to focus on implementing all the necessary features first. Anything else that we were unable to add could always be addressed towards the end of our presentation.

Later, after eight hours of hacking, it was finally time for the presentations. Seeing everyone’s ideas was probably one of my favorite parts about the hackathon because it highlighted the ingenuity of each individual group. In the beginning, we were all tasked with creating a hack centered around the singular theme of authenticity, yet in the end, we all interpreted that concept in multiple ways. Some of us came up with ideas centered around food services and self-help, while others created hacks to help with medical analysis and the early detection of natural disasters.

When it came time for the judges to announce the winners, I had no idea that we’d win one of the prizes. I was just so content with having been able to participate that it didn’t register that we were called until moments afterward. As we went up to receive our grand prize (which by that I mean our portable drives), I realized that it wasn’t just the prize that excited me. I was excited because winning was the last thing on my mind, yet it was definitely the cherry on top of an already amazing day. That night, on the train back home, I left feeling so grateful for the experience I had, along with the reward that came with it. Going to a hackathon is an immensely invaluable experience that I’d encourage anyone to partake in if they can.

Seidenberg Junior wins the Northeast-10 Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Sport Excellence Award for the second year in a row

Swimming and computer science don’t have much in common, but when a Seidenberg student wins an award for academic and athletic success, they intersect quite well. Jana Ciric is a junior Computer Science major and Division II Swim Team member on the Westchester campus. She just earned the Northeast-10 Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Sport Excellence Award for the second year in a row.

The third-year student explains that she started swimming when she was in the third grade; “when I was a little kid, my parents would take me to Greece every year and all I wanted to do was play in the water. They helped me make the right choice and choose swimming when I was ready to take on a sport.”

Growing up, Jana was on Serbia’s National Swimming Team for four years. During that time, she participated in European regional meets, like the Balkan Junior Championship, where she won the silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle. She was also the captain of the “Sveti Nikola” swimming club in Serbia for six years, helping to coach and organize a team of ten swimmers for practices and swim meets.

She notes that her time swimming for Pace has been excellent, but it definitely differs from her experience in Europe: “at Pace, we have dual meets every week, but very little championship meets (one or two per year), whereas in Europe we have championships more often but have no dual meets.”

https://paceuathletics.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=4224
Jana Ciric from Pace U Athletics website

The amount of time she spends with the Pace Swimming and Diving team has allowed her to form close friendships that she considers the most important part of her experience.

“I consider my team to be the closest thing I have to home since I am really far from home,” she explains.

Even with the homesickness that she endures, Jana found time to rack up quite a list of accomplishments. She holds six (out of over 20) of Pace University’s swimming records, earned Dean’s List First Honors for Fall 2018, completed a spring internship as a Junior Programmer/Analyst at Central National Gottesman, and lined up an exciting internship at AQR Capital Management for this summer. She also did all of this while working as a Tutor the Pleasantville Tutoring Center and a Student Assistant for the Athletic Department! Maintaining those records, grades, and workload is not easy.

“I have always had a really good work ethic and determination. Once I set my mind on something, I work really hard until I get it,” Jana notes. “I have unconditional support from my family which has been pushing me to do better every day. Even though they are almost 5,000 miles away they are always with me, helping me to achieve my dreams.”

How does it feel to earn her second straight NE10 Swimming and Diving Sport Excellence Award? Jana says that it “feels amazing,” and rightfully so.

“I am really proud to have won that award again since I put a lot of emphasis on my education. I am a student first and an athlete second. I wouldn’t have even come to the U.S. if it weren’t for my passion for academics and education (as well as swimming). This is why I think this award is so important to me – it really celebrates why all of us are here at college: to get a better education.”

Jana’s success is a success for all of Seidenberg. Her hard work showcases just how possible it is to obtain friendship, accomplishments, and a degree while being a student-athlete, intern, and employee. We’re proud to show off all that Jana does within the Pace community!

Jana would like to note that she really appreciates that Dean Hill and Andreea attend her swim meets and cheer her on. You can always check the swim team schedule to see when Jana will be competing. We’re sure that she’d love to have a crowd there cheering her on.

Battle of the Bots at Pace University

If watching robots compete to complete tasks entices you, then you should’ve been at Pace University on February 10th. The 10th annual Hudson Valley NY FIRST Tech Challenge championship robotics tournament was held on Pace University’s Westchester campus. The day was full of challenges and innovation for middle and high school students from the Hudson Valley. Only one goal stayed in each of the students’ minds throughout the tournament: getting to the world championship.

The event, run by Dr. Richard Kline and Jill Olimpieri, hosted 27 high school-level teams. The competition brought together the region’s top qualifying teams and their robots to compete in a task-based challenge. Pace University has hosted the regional championship for several years.  Pace University, Pace University Athletics, and IBM sponsored the event.

According to the Hudson Valley NY FIRST Tech Challenge site, “Students in FTC design and build a robot using aluminum, polycarbonate, motors and servos, sensors, and a variety of other materials. They program and control it using Android Smartphones with Java or a Blocks-based graphical language.”

With exclusive scholarships open to competing students totaling more than $80 million, the stakes were high. The challenge to beat this year was “Rover Ruckus,” and teams battled to take the top spots.

According to Dr. Kline, “More than 40 current Pace students and about a dozen alumni, staff, and faculty participated in the event, comprising half of the 100 or so volunteers who banded together to run the competition under the guidance of volunteer coordinator and Seidenberg School staff member Jill Olimpieri. Students contributed in all areas of the competition, from setup and logistics to referees, judges, inspectors, and robot technical advisors.”

Pace students and faculty Sukun Li and Leanne Keeley volunteered as judges for the event. Students Jeana Cosenza, Kyle Hanson, Joel Thomas, and Zach Demeglio, among others, volunteered in various supporting roles. Dean Hill even made a special appearance to cheer on the teams and robots!

Fios 1 News covered the event, giving the young students the chance to feature their efforts on the local news. The coverage inspired and motivated the students to share their experiences and do their best.

At the end of the day, three teams came out on top and will move on to the world championship. Congratulations to Team 6567 – Roboraiders from Red Hook High School, Team 7486 – Suffern Robotics from Suffern Senior High School, and Team 8397 – Beta, from CCE Clinton County 4-H. We wish the best of luck to them at the world championship!

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The Pace Cyber Team Participates in CCDC

The Seidenberg School is proud to share that the Pace Cyber Team participated in the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NECCDC) Qualifier on January 26. The team competed from the Goldstein Academic Center on the Westchester campus.

The team is made up of Seidenberg students—Daniel Barr, Andrew Ku, Ryan Kennedy, Benjamin Longobardi, Charlie Adams, Joel Thomas, Cole Patterson, Ryan Nuebel, Ryan Distelhurst, Danny Decarvalho, Mark Rolon, and Ronny Cervante. They worked hard to prepare for the competition and come as far as they did.

Michael O’Rourke, the System Administrator at AQR Capital Management, served as a team judge for Pace University. Dr. Li-Chiou Chen also supported the training of the team throughout the fall and spring semesters by allowing the students to utilize the Cybersecurity Education and Research Lab. The team would like to thank both Michael and Dr. Chen for their time and contributions to the group this academic year. The team would also like to thank their coach, Professor Andreea Cotoranu, who has been working with the team since 2012.

Andreea notes that “throughout the competition the students get real-life experience with hardening systems, handling attacks, and reporting incidents in a high-pressure environment. In training for the competition, the students work on their technical, communication and teamwork skills.”

Andreea continues: “cybersecurity is a team sport yet getting a team of talented, strong-willed students is not always easy. I am proud of what the team has accomplished this season; beyond expanding their technical expertise, the students worked really well together, not only in the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Qualifier but also in the Northeast CAE 

Hackathon where they placed 2nd out of eight teams.”

Joel Thomas, a graduate Computer Science student, first participated in CCDC during his freshman year. He has a lot to say about his experiences with the Seidenberg team.

“What drew me to the competition was the idea of being able to work hands-on with so many different technologies at once. I was really curious about the Information Security field and just what [it] entailed,” he says. “Throughout my years of working in CCDC, I can honestly say it was a great resource for taking my experience beyond the classroom. To not only be able to see what technologies companies are using but also gain hands-on experience.”

Students who gain this hands-on experience working on the Cyber Team gain useful skills to add to their resume and get great experience working on realistic cybersecurity challenges. The team is a great way to engage with the Seidenberg community.

“The team is always looking for new members to help the team grow and continue,” Joel states.

The Cyber Team is always recruiting more students! Are you interested in becoming part of the Cyber Team next season? Get in touch with Andreea Cotoranu!

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Nexus Maximus: a Wrap-up of the 2018 Conference

In September 2018, students from Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems presented innovative solutions to problems at Nexus Maximus. In order to showcase their hard work properly, we reached out to some of the students who attended the conference in order to hear about their experiences first-hand.

Nexus Maximus, created by Jefferson (Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University), is a conference which gives undergraduate and graduate students a platform to present innovative projects each year. The 2018 conference opened the minds of students to explore many topics, including improving health care access, designing healthy communities, developing new policies and business models to deliver sustainable value to the community, and building community diversity. According to Jefferson, students had the opportunity to “evaluate and seek innovation that supports the health and well-being of specific local community populations.”

Of the Computer Science, Information Systems, and Information

Technology students who attended the conference—Chinmay Joshi, Ronak Pansara, Ezana Ceman, Joseph Goggin, Kyle Hanson, Naglis Bukauskas, William Bender, Christopher Cherestal, and Laina Posner—two students got in touch with us to discuss their experiences. They outlined what they experienced and highlighted the best portions of the weekend-long experience.

Ezana Ceman, a junior undergraduate student majoring in Information Systems and a New York City Design Factory (NYCDF) Product Innovation Project (PiP) Member, spoke with me about the 2018 conference. She called the event a “fun and innovative experience” and described it as “a unique 3-day team challenge that allows you to step out of your comfort zone and use your talents to create an amazing concept.”

Some of the concepts worked on included strategies to battle food insecurity, homelessness, and much more. While the projects themselves shined a light on the groups’ innovative minds, Ezana explains that recognition wasn’t the highlight.

The best part of the conference is the community participation itself, according to Ezana: “you get to meet students from all around the world and work together to make society a better place.”

Nexus Maximus assists students by giving them the opportunity to learn how to develop and present projects, but the inspiration comes from the students themselves. The willingness to create innovative solutions to communities problems showcases the determination that these students have to create a better world.

Ronak Pansara, a graduate student who will complete his master’s degree in Information Systems in May 2019, also spoke about his experience at Nexus Maximus and the project that his team presented.

Ronak’s team helped people seeking help on NYC streets by giving them detailed and professional signs. He explained that his team’s “project “Signs of Trust” is all about helping homeless people in a unique manner.”

He says further, “This project was inspired by problems arising in many areas. [Their team found that] homeless people were either ignored or people would not trust them as they might not use [the] money for [a] good cause. So that’s why we came up with a unique solution for bridging the gap of honesty and trust.”

“My experience at Nexus Maximus was stupendous,” he states. “It not only helped me building my interpersonal skills, it also helped me in learning new things on how to work with people who were from different [countries].”

Ronak noted that the best part of his overall experience was “how [they] identified [their] individual strengths and weaknesses and how [they] utilized each other by working together in the project.”

“Though we didn’t win any awards, we did get one [non-governmental organization] (NGO) [which] supported our cause for homeless people,” Ronak states. The recognition in itself was a win for the team.

Another team, which included Chinmay Joshi and others, did get recognized with the “Maxime Innovation” award from the conference for maximum innovation. The team worked on a project, titled “Fresh Express”, that tackled how to better deal with food insecurity and waste within the Philadelphia area.

Overall, all of the students experienced growth and success at Nexus Maximus. Both Ronak and Ezana recommend this opportunity to other students. If you’re interested in attending in September 2019, grab some classmates and get to work on the next innovative idea!