ITMO Students About Hackathon at National Center for Cognitive Technologies

How to determine users’ gender based on the data garnered via social media websites? How to process meteorological data? How to predict and manage customer outflow with the use of email marketing services? These and other questions were tackled at an interdisciplinary hackathon hosted by the National Center for Cognitive Technologies. Any ITMO University student could take part in the competition. The only condition for participation was a willingness to learn more about artificial intelligence.

The main goal of the hackathon is to attract talented and motivated students willing to take part in research conducted by the National Center for Cognitive Technologies. According to the event’s coordinators, participation in the hackathon gives ITMO University students a unique opportunity to try their hand at solving real-life business tasks provided by the Center’s partners.

“The mission of the National Center for Cognitive Technologies is to create a platform for research in the field of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cognitive technologies,” shares the head of the Center Alexander Boukhanovsky. “This includes not only doing research but also training highly-skilled specialists who are ready to develop and implement intellectual technologies in various fields. That’s why we at the National Center for Cognitive Technologies, together with our industrial partners, host a range of events aimed at attracting young specialists and researchers and encouraging them to work on real-life projects. Among our initiatives is a series of hackathons for both Bachelor’s and Master’s students, as well as other projects.”

Alexander Boukhanovsky
Alexander Boukhanovsky

It was students themselves who initiated the event. A total of 15 student teams partook in the hackathon, each consisting of two to five participants. They were offered five tasks on clustering, data classification, and other topics related to machine learning. For example, they were given a database that contained information about users of social media websites, without names, but with likes, comments on their pages, and the number of photos they had. The task was to determine users’ gender, based only on this data. Another task encouraged students to use the data provided by the Center’s partner, ER-Telecom, to estimate how many clients may leave the company in the nearest future.

Students had two days to complete the tasks. They could choose any number of tasks they wanted. The assessment criteria included the accuracy with which the task was performed, the number of models and methods used, and creativity. Five teams were selected by the jury.

As the hackathon was open for participation for students majoring in different fields, among the participants were students with different levels of preparation. For example, Alexey Ustinov, a second-year Bachelor’s student at the Faculty of Infocommunication Technologies and member of one of the winning teams, had never solved such tasks before.

Alexey Ustinov
Alexey Ustinov

“Our team was made up of three people, myself included. Before that, we hadn’t worked with machine learning technologies but really wanted to learn more about them. That’s why once he heard about the hackathon, we immediately decided to participate. We only managed to solve two tasks, but, as a famous saying goes, it’s the quality that matters,” shares Alexey Ustinov.

Eugenia Schepina, a third-year Bachelor’s student at the Information Technologies and Programming Faculty, found herself in quite a different situation from Alexey, yet, her team, too, became the hackathon’s winner. What they did is they used various algorithms, assessing each parameter’s impact, and accurately visualized the results, which helped them get some extra points.

“I really enjoyed the hackathon. I learned so much during these two days. There were some tasks that I’d already solved before, but it was challenging nevertheless, as you have to make a decision very fast. I think that the knowledge I got at the hackathon will come in very handy in my future career,” says Eugenia.

Alexey Ustinov, Eugenia Schepina, and Dmitry Alexandrov
Alexey Ustinov, Eugenia Schepina, and Dmitry Alexandrov

Eugenia has already found a job in her degree field, but other winners are willing to use their opportunity to join the National Center for Cognitive Technologies. For one, Dmitry Alexandrov, a first-year Master’s student majoring in ‘Infocommunication technologies and communication systems’ and his teammates have already applied for participation in the Center’s projects.

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