Fairfield Students Explore Frontiers of Entrepreneurship, Quantum Computing at IBM BlueHack Event

Fairfield Students Explore Frontiers of Entrepreneurship, Quantum Computing at IBM BlueHack Event

IBM professionals and Fairfield University students took part in a virtual BlueHack event on April 8, 2020.

IBM professionals and Fairfield University students took part in a virtual BlueHack event on April 8, 2020.

Forty computer science students from the School of Engineering took part in an online business pitch competition and quantum programming workshop with IBM.

The skills they learned will help prepare them to be part of a quantum-ready workforce in the future.

— Professor and Chair of Computer Science and Engineering, Adrian Rusu, PhD

Earlier this month, five teams of student entrepreneurs from the School of Engineering’s Computer Science program competed in a BlueHack quantum computing event, co-sponsored by Fairfield University and IBM.

The goal of a BlueHack is to give students the experience of creating and pitching entrepreneurial business models and value propositions, with a particular eye on factors such as operations, revenue and profit, and innovation. Although originally planned to take place live, the April event was redesigned into a Zoom meeting with professionals from IBM and Fairfield students joining from locations across the country.

Four teams of juniors and one solo sophomore gave five-minute business proposal presentations to the IBM representatives who acted as the panel of investors, or “sharks.” The IBM panelists followed each pitch with a Q&A session about the company or product, inviting students to address questions about building, deploying, and marketing their ideas.

After the presentations, IBM hosted a workshop for 40 Fairfield students to learn how to run their first quantum program using the IBM Quantum Experience and Qiskit, an open-source software platform. “The skills they learned will help prepare them to be part of a quantum-ready workforce in the future,” said Adrian Rusu, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Fairfield.

Recognizing that the rapidly approaching age of quantum computing will only realize its ground-breaking potential with the enthusiastic support of educators, researchers, students, and programmers, IBM was the first company to make a cloud-accessible quantum computer available to the world in 2016. Since then, more than 200,000 global users have run hundreds of billions of circuits on real quantum hardware, via the IBM Quantum Experience. 

Computer science major and BlueHack participant Aaron Banson-Bisaba ’21 said, “The event was a very fulfilling experience in which we were able to get the most valuable feedback from those in our field. It opened our eyes to the world of possibilities Fairfield provides for us as well as the different routes we can take within our major — such an amazing event.” 

At the conclusion of BlueHack, organizer Sergio Borger of IBM Innovation Services announced the winners of the entrepreneur competition. "The projects presented by the students are interesting and have the potential to grow in the market,” he said. “It all depends on the focus of the students and their ability to test and pivot the concept in the market fast."

First prize went to the Class of 2021 team of Logan Pensa, Daniel Wilson, Hemant Maheshwari, Aaron Banson-Bisaba, and Adrian Gallant, for their Pocket Closet business pitch. Pocket Closet is a mobile application that allows users to dive into different wardrobes and styles provided by local stores, in order to build upon their sense of fashion. “We received helpful feedback from the ‘sharks’ that my team is sure to elaborate on in the future,” said Gallant. “The experience of presenting and pitching an idea as an upcoming entrepreneur was something I'll continue to look back on as I progress in my career.” 

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Last modified: 05-01-20 1:26 PM

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