Feb. 27, 2018
Students reel in top prizes in fish hack
Winning team from Seneca enters global competition
If you asked Damian Murawiecki last year about hackathons, the second-year Computer Programming and Analysis student would have shrugged and said, “I have no clue what that is.”
As a winner of this year’s Fishackathon in Toronto, organized by HackerNest, Damian can now tell you that hackathons are not at all about a bunch of computer geeks getting together in a room to write code.
“It’s about preparation, teamwork and being lucky,” he says.
The Fishackathon saw 25 teams take over Toronto City Hall over a weekend in February to create digital solutions that address sustainable fisheries challenges, such as overfishing and small-scale fishing marketplaces.
Thirty-five students from Prof. Mark Buchner’s class in the School of Information and Communications Technology participated the event, which was held simultaneously in more than 35 cities worldwide, promoted by the U.S. Department of State and sponsored by the Government of Canada.
Seneca's Alumni Student Experience Fund was a gold sponsor for the Toronto event.
Damian’s winning team consisted of fellow Seneca student and grad, Simon Inoc, as well as three members from the community. The team’s project, Stablefish Marketplace, uses text message and blockchain technology to help fishers obtain fair market value for their catch by gaining access to tamper-proof real-time market data.
The entry received a $5,000 credit in startup help and has been included in the global Fishackathon. A demo video of their project is posted on YouTube.
The hackathon, while “quite stressful” at times, enabled Damian to experience the software life cycle of meeting a client, designing the software and testing it.
“I never expected to win,” he says. “Maybe I quietly wished it, and when we won, I freaked out.”
That being said, winning the Fishackathon has boosted Damian’s confidence as a computer programmer.
“You know you can build and complete projects,” he says. “Seneca exposes you to a lot of teamwork, which is great, but it’s more than that. You have to step up and deliver something for your teammate.”
Yanting Zhou, a runner-up of the Toronto Fishackathon, knows a thing or two about that.
The Project Management — Information Technology student developed a fish recognition idea with classmates in Mark’s class only to find out at the Fishackathon that she was without a team.
Yanting was forced to form a group at the event by approaching developers without a project and convincing them to join her.
Her project, iGoFish, is a computer solution that identifies fish species by using facial recognition software.
“Let’s say you catch a fish, you can take a picture and find out, for example, if the fish is endangered and if it should be released,” Yanting explains.
Her concept also uses crowdsourcing to capture geolocation and time, feeding the data into a cloud or big data system that could be used for research purposes.
Not only was the project exactly what the Ministry of Natural Resources was looking to build, but the consulting firm hired by the ministry to solve the problem ended up awarding Yanting’s team with a $500 prize.
The firm, Swim Drink Fish, is now looking to partner with Yanting to commercialize the application.
“What I’ve learned from this experience is persistence and believing in yourself,” she says. “Don’t say no in the very beginning. If I had given up, I wouldn’t have won the case. Now I feel like I can make anything happen. I can drive myself to do it not because I have to, but because I want to."