The Nittany AI Challenge is an amazing event. From a participant perspective, it is not only a chance to write a cool application, but a life-changing opportunity to discover the path to entrepreneurship. From a sponsorship perspective, however, it is so much more.
Blackboard sponsored the 2017–18 Challenge, beginning with HackPSU in the fall and pushing through the spring and summer when a myriad of teams attempted to take an idea and push through to a minimum viable product (MVP) and elevator pitch to perspective investors. This gave us insight into the challenges students face in daily campus life, as well as their innovative solutions to those challenges.
From a personal perspective, this event was extremely rewarding. The opportunity to work with and mentor the makers of tomorrow gave me great satisfaction. I have worked in software since 1997, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day life that this industry entails. Spending time with young inventors and passing along knowledge and experience as they are just beginning this journey is unique and gratifying. As a mentor, it was incumbent upon me to help the participants learn the ways of application development, but I think I learned more from them than they did from me.
Over the course of the competition, I saw first-hand how students work and think. I saw teams of students from across disciplines come together to design and build compelling applications that have the potential to change the way Penn State students matriculate. The most amazing thing was the maturity of the projects. Some projects were designed beautifully from a user interface and user experience perspective. Some were extremely innovative in the approach to and application of artificial intelligence and machine learning. All of the teams built functioning applications with the potential to become something meaningful.
The months I spent working with the competitors in State College were a highlight of my year. If you are considering participation in this year’s Nittany AI Challenge, I would leave you with this: this event is a wonderful opportunity for personal growth and satisfaction. If you have the chance to participate, do.