Sponsored by the Connecticut Technology Council (CTC), two separate competitions – one for coding and one for engineering – pitted teams of highly skilled student engineers from colleges and universities across the state against one another in the second annual College Tech Challenge.
"To succeed in engineering, we must be the innovators."
— Sajiv Francis
Two teams of Fairfield graduate students made it through an on-campus qualifying round and were selected to compete in the CTC’s final competitions on November 16 in Bristol, Conn.
Team StagPower, formed by software engineering students Xin Ning and Daniel Vasconez, won second place in the final coding challenge with an “Aging in Connecticut” web application built to be uniquely navigable for senior citizens. According to Ning, their prizewinning website concept was designed to provide the state’s elderly population with relevant and accessible information for their daily activities.
Lalith Kumar Sonnakula, Sosender Madas, and Sajiv Francis were members of Fairfield’s second group of participants, Team Static, which held the distinction of being the only team invited to participate in the final rounds of both the coding and the engineering challenges – no easy task, as the two challenges occurred simultaneously within a strict time constraint.
According to mechanical engineering student Sosender Madas, for the final engineering challenge, “we were tasked to develop a technology solution to reduce waste in the farm-to-table supply chain, focusing on the urban environment.” All team members agreed that it was motivating to focus their broad industrial knowledge toward a solution to a specific real-world issue.
“The College Tech Challenge allowed us to understand the varied needs of our society,” said Sajiv Francis, “and this challenged us to explore new datasets to build useful solutions.”
Francis, a software engineer, and Lalith Kumar Sonnakula, a mechanical engineer, felt Team Static benefited from the collaboration of their two areas of expertise. They came away from the competitions with the realization that “core engineering and software coding are essential to building effective products of innovation,” said Francis.
On a more personal level, Sonnakula added that “having the right partners in any challenge – in terms of leadership, motivation, and can-do attitude – is the key to successful teamwork.”
Not only did the College Tech Challenge serve as a collaborative venue for technology students, it also showcased to local companies the high level of engineering talent being cultivated in Connecticut’s colleges and universities.
Associates from local technology firms served as judges for the competition, and the event also featured a hiring fair with representatives from over 40 tech and tech-enabled Connecticut companies. Students were able to speak with tech industry professionals about internships and career paths, and also share their ideas on the future of engineering. As Sajiv Francis put it, “People want new ideas. It helps companies to see how engineering students think and what they are thinking. To succeed in engineering, we must be the innovators.”