Inspire, learn and experience: At the Heart of womENcourage 2019

womENcourage 2019 brought much excitement to Rome in September, where women in the computing profession came together to enjoy a programme packed with insightful topics and engaging educational and networking activities. The three-day event included a hackathon, workshops, posters, technical talks, panel discussions and interdisciplinary research tracks, and had something for everyone.

The event was attended by over 350 participants, of which 55% were students, of those we had 62% graduate and 38% undergraduate students. womENcourage had a strong showing of male attendees who made up 15% of the total attendees. The participants came from 32 countries covering four continents (Europe, Asia, Africa, and America).

For three days, we had many activities and events to keep everyone busy. And, the results are in! Your feedback tells us you had ample opportunity to learn from each other and inspire and be inspired.

Here is a sample of what you loved, and for some of you, womENcourage event was eye-opening:

“I really enjoyed Donatella’s talk. I didn’t know that the absence of girls had such an impact on the technology developed.” (About Day 3 – keynotes and technical talks)

“As an undergrad, we had the opportunity to chat with representatives from various companies and learn the different philosophies of different companies. Many vague ideas we had become much clearer.” (About Career Fair)

“The workshop was amazing. I wasn’t familiar with the topic before and thought it was going to be just plain testing techniques. However, I learned about a whole new field, which is super interesting.” (About the workshop – So you believe your software is reliable…)

In the rest of this blog article, we will give you a summary of the two events that took place on the first day: the Hackathon and WSense workshop, which provided a multitude of activity to its participants.

womENcourage Hackathon 2019

“The mentors were incredibly helpful.”

The hackathon was a full-day activity attended by 100 participants. The majority of them were master’s degree students (42%), but there was also a significant representation of undergraduates (22%) and doctoral students (22%). The remaining 16% were high school students and early-career professionals. 64% of them considered programming as their area of expertise, 27% were experts in design and 17% — in business. 69% of them have never attended a hackathon before.

The participants were divided into four groups, depending on the problem they chose to work on:

  1. Circular Economy,
  2. Enabling Sustainable Cities through Blockchain,
  3. Artificial Intelligence and Welfare,
  4. Work-life Balance and Smart Working.

Within each problem category, the participants grouped into five teams based on their experience and expertise to compete for a prize. The problem descriptions were available to them beforehand, as well as the contact details of their teammates. The participants were encouraged to read the descriptions, discuss the challenge and assign project roles before coming to the hackathon.

The hackathon started with an ice-breaker to let the team members get to know each other better. Next, the participants had an opportunity to learn more about the challenges within the problem space and ask questions during the “speed mentoring” session.

The focus of the hackathon was primary on learning how to use technical skills in solving real-world problems. For this reason, several mentors were providing the participants with technical support on the day. Also, skill development opportunities included expert talks on design thinking and “Mission Model Canvas” technique, as well as presenting a technical project to a panel of investors.

The final part of the hackathon involved the project presentations. Each team was given exactly 4 minutes to pitch their project to the panel of judges. Then, the jury had 1 minute to ask clarifying questions. The jury, consisting of 9 industry representatives, rated the final projects according to the following criteria:

  • Technical Innovation,
  • Creativity,
  • Execution,
  • Impact/Business Model,
  • Presentation.

The technical innovation criteria (i.e. whether the team understood the problem and came up with an adequate solution) was considered twice as important as the other criteria. Overall, the judges were very impressed with the quality of the projects and an incredible lot of work the participants managed to get done in such a short time.

The hackathon ended at 19:30 with the announcement of the winning teams in each category during the womENcourage Welcome Reception:

  • In “Circular Economy” category, Ulviyya Jafarli, Amani Boughalmi, Gunay Abdullayeva, Cristina Angelone and Obaidullah Izam were awarded a hospitality package (train/flight within Europe, room and board, entrance ticket) for the SingularityU Italy Summit 2019, which will be in Milan on 8-9 October 2019 and a visit to ENI’s laboratories in San Donato Milanese (MI) sponsored by ENI,
  • In “Enabling Sustainable Cities through Blockchain” category, Jessica Roncatti, Lorenzo Madeddu, Beatrice Latini, Luou Wen and Lucie Magister were awarded branded Apple watches sponsored by Ernst & Young,
  • In “Artificial Intelligence and Welfare” category, Francesca Romana Mattei, Andrea Moscatelli, Federica Granese, Gamze Akyol and Elif Ak were awarded HPE mini servers sponsored by Var Group,
  • In “ Work-life Balance and Smart Working” category, Evelina Di Corso, Eliana Pastor, Marilisa Montemurro, Federica Trani and Yael Tsafrir were awarded Avio Aero – CTNA branded iPads sponsored by Avio Aereo + CTNA.

Congratulations to all participants!

WSense lab

“Great idea with great applications, also really inspirational professor and role model.”

The WSense workshop started with an overview of the world of Internet of Underwater Things, why it is vital for the future of humankind to monitor the offshore environments, the challenges and the current state of the art. The WSense team then presented the devices operating underwater: Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), underwater sensor nodes, and systems for divers. They explained how these devices work, and demonstrated to the attendees the device operation, including simple small labs on programming the trajectory of an ROV and how to move an electronic arm of an underwater robot. Following this, Prof. Chiara Petrioli presented information on leadership and from her experience tips on how to develop our talents. Then a challenge was put forth showing how you might process underwater images for understanding physical phenomena, which led to some exciting projects submitted by students. The lab ended with a final presentation by Prof. Petrioli on the lessons learnt in scaling up a high tech SMEs for the benefit of attendees interested in becoming entrepreneurs.

We hope these two events inspire you to consider coming to the next womENcourage in Azerbaijan. We are actually counting on it! Your feedback results told us that, with an average of 8.76, you would attend a womENcourage in the future.

We are looking forward to seeing you there.

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