Three Winning Teams in Hackathon for 1st/2nd Year Students

On Saturday, November 25th, seven teams students participated in the first hackathon aimed specifically at 1st and 2nd year students at Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Community College.

Throughout the day, each team developed innovative ideas for products using any technologies they were comfortable with in three prize categories worth $250 each: the “most social”, the “most humorous”, and the “most complete”.

To help students with any questions they might have about product development and coding, eleven students at the senior undergraduate and masters level at Dal volunteered their time to support the event.

“There was a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement in the room – right from the start” reports Grant Wells, Manager of ShiftKey Labs. “Everyone was competing hard for the prizes but there were a lot of laughs so I know they were enjoying this opportunity to apply their coding skills in fun, creative ways.”

Each team presented their ideas and rough demos of their solutions to the room but instead of evaluating winning teams with a traditional panel of judges, each person in the room voted on the ideas they felt were best in the three prize categories.

The winner for “most social” application was team “1UP” – a place for Dalhousie Societies to share their talents, improve their clubs, and interact with other students with different interests and different backgrounds.

Team “Chipotle” earned “most humorous” prize to help students ease their depression by tickling their funny bone with videos based on their comedic interests.

The “most complete” application prize went to team “Snack Track” – an app that helps people track their food and get more information on what they’re eating to make more informed dietary decisions.

Congratulations to everyone who participated!

Team “Snack Track” (l to r): Stephen Terrio and Mackenzie Boudreau. Winners of the “most complete” prize category.
Team “1UP” (l to r): Thomas Rizzuto, Oliver Dechant, and Ivy Lin, winners of the “most social” prize category
Team “Chipotle (l to r): James MacPhee and Rylan Conway, winners of the “most humorous” prize category

First and Second Year Student Hackathon

If you’ve never heard of or participated in a hackathon before, the format is simple: Bring your new project ideas and existing coding skills to the event, form a small team, and start coding a solution based on that idea.

Throughout the day, a variety of technical mentors will be present to help answer any questions you may have. A mentor schedule has been provided below.

Meals, snacks, and drinks will be provided to keep you fuelled up!

All teams will be invited to deliver a maximum 5-minute presentation of their solution to the group toward the end of the event (but you don’t have to).

The best part… compete for three (3), $250 cash prizes!


To generate some interesting ideas and start creating a functional software prototype. Hackathons are also a great way to meet new people, earn bragging rights about your coding abilities, win prizes, and have some fun!


Below is a list of optional themes for which you can create a solution—just to get some ideas flowing. It is possible to create a solution that is based on more than one theme or to come up with a completely different theme/idea of your own.

  • Healthy living
  • Gender equality
  • Diversity
  • Senior citizens
  • Performing arts
  • Smart energy
  • Social enterprise

Technical Mentors

To help students with any technical questions they might have, a variety of mentors will be volunteering at the hackathon. Please take a look at the following Technical Mentor Schedule for more information.


The hackathon is scheduled to start on Saturday, November 25th at 10:00 am and end by 8:00 pm.

Time Details
10:00 Kick off
10:15 Form teams, discuss project ideas, begin coding!
12:00 Lunch
5:30 Pizza dinner
6:30 Presentations/Voting
7:50 Winners announced and group photos
8:00 Event ends


There will be a total of three (3), $250 prizes in three (3) different categories. It is possible for a team to win in more than one category.

Unlike other hackathons or pitch events, there will be no judging panel as everyone participating in the event will be given the opportunity to cast votes in the three prize categories listed below.

Most social

Develop a solution that has the potential to reach the largest amount of people. “Most social” can also be interpreted as a solution that provides shared experiences or fosters collaboration amongst different groups, brings groups together that normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet, or enriches the quality of time spent together (i.e. meaningful activities with friends, grandparents with grandchildren, etc) as a group.

Most humourous

One of the primary goals of this competition is to have fun. Winners of this prize category have the opportunity to showcase their funny side and develop a game, mobile app, or other piece of software that is clever and makes people laugh.

Remember, the solution has to be in good taste and everyone is expected to follow the appropriate student Code of Conduct at Dalhousie.

Most complete

It wouldn’t be a coding hackathon if participants just presented ideas without any code! Most complete will be measured on the level completed functionality as intended for the solution. A solution with a simple feature set that is more complete will not necessarily win over a solution that contains a more challenging feature set that is less complete.


  • All participants must be either a first or second-year undergraduate-level student. Non-Dalhousie students in other post-secondary programs at the first and second year undergraduate level are also welcome to participate.
  • All participants must register online in advance of the event start date and time
  • Team size must be between 2-4 students
  • To be eligible for prizes, at least one team member must present the team’s solution, in-person, at the hackathon
  • Prizes will be distributed equally amongst all group members
  • Prizes are non-negotiable and cannot be substituted
  • Winning teams will be determined by (an adaptation of) dotmocracy voting. Additional details will be disclosed in the hackathon.

Hackathon starter pack with Vertx

Learn how to build an web application from scratch using the Vertx framework. Vertx is a reactive microservice framework that allows us to quickly put together our own applications, making it an ideal candidate for hackathons and major projects alike. We’ll set up a PostgresSQL database to persist our data, as well as a simple frontend using bootstrap for our users to interact with. This workshop is beginner friendly, basic knowledge of Java will be assumed, knowledge of HTML/CSS/JS/SQL is useful but not required.

Please come with your own laptop and have the following software pre installed:


MyMem Models Startup Success with Competition Wins

A siri-like app, developed by current and former Dalhousie students, to assist older people and those with dementia to recall information easily and independently using artificial intelligence has recently been awarded $50,000 investment after success at national and regional competitions.

Last week, Volta Labs in partnership with Innovacorp and BDC Capital, launched the Volta Cohort – a new $125,000 micro fund for Atlantic Canadian early-stage companies. The Dalhousie-based team, MyMem were one of five Halifax companies to be awarded a $25,000 funding and mentorship package at the November 14th launch event, following a competitive pitching process.

Age-Well Ideathon 2nd place winners (L to R): Arun Athisamy, Eric Fisher, Harish Gopinath, and Aishwarya Ravichandran

This follows similar success at a national ideathon competition. Back in October, AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence and HACKING HEALTH hosted the culmination of a Canada-wide competition to identify and invest in new technologies and services to support healthy aging. MyMem placed second in the national initiative and took home $25,000 investment.

MyMem is the creation of alumnus Eric Fisher (PhD Biochemistry & Molecular Biology ’13) and current Master of Applied Computer Science program students Harish Gopinath, Arun Athisamy, and Aishwarya Ravichandran.

“We wanted to develop a solution for dementia sufferers and their families to makes things easier for those suffering from memory loss, their caregivers and families,” said Ravichandran.

“Through AI based personalized voice command, MyMem helps people living with dementia recall information quickly and independently, and hold onto memories and experiences. It will enable users to access important information and photos by voice command, requiring very little proficiency with technology. We hope the app will be fun to use as well as helpful and believe this could change the way disorders such as dementia are approached.”

MyMem’s recent accomplishment follows first-place success earlier this year at HACKING HEALTH HALIFAX in March, and Nova Scotia Sandboxes Introduction to Innovation Bootcamp in May.

The team is based out of innovation sandbox ShiftKey Labs in the Goldberg Computer Science Building, where they have benefitted from the expertise of lab manager, Grant Wells.

“MyMem have shown real potential since the idea was first conceptualized earlier this year,” says Wells. “The app could have a huge impact on people’s lives and the way in which health professionals deal with dementia, related disorders and those living with them.”

Following their recent wins, MyMem are looking ahead and moving forward with tailoring the app to better serve customers.

“The investment from both competitions will make a huge difference in how we can continue to innovate and develop the best product possible for users,” Harish Gopinath says. “We are hoping to go public with the app in 2018 and the investment of support and money we have received so far will really help to make this happen.”

Students Tackle Real Business Problems at Python Hackathon

4 teams of Dal Computer Science students proved their innovation at the latest ShiftKey Labs Hackathon.

The ShiftKey-Py Hackathon took place February 22 – 24 and challenged teams to creatively solve valuable business problems using web frameworks including Python and Django.

Sponsored by social media analytics company Leadsift, the Hackathon saw students tackle issues including corporate Twitter account mapping, B2B/B2C classification of online profiles and personal vs. professional social media post classifiers.

Following two days of problem solving, students presented their solutions to a panel of expert judges with team StarDotStar’s B2B/B2C webpage classifier coming out on top.

The winning team used a range of technologies including Python, Django, NLTK and scikit-learn to build their own classifier to determine if companies from a shared dataset were B2B or B2C.

Sponsor Leadsift were so impressed by the StarDotStar’s winning solution, team member Kundan Kumar was offered full-time employment with the organisation.

Grant Wells, Manager at ShiftKey Labs said: “Hackathons like this one are part of a wide range of events organised by ShiftKey Labs for students and the community throughout the year. The sessions act as a fantastic opportunity for teams and individuals to develop their skills, access industry expertise through mentorship and gain recognition for their work. Kundan’s employment offer following the event is testament to how Hackathons such as this one are mutually beneficial to students, universities and the wider community.”

A very special thanks goes out to Colin Conrad and Vlado Keselj for their work coordinating and delivering this event.

Java GUI Hack-a-thon with Spring

To cap off another successful semester, ShiftKey Labs is planning a whopper of an event! Over the weekend of November 25th-27th, learn about front-end Java development using the Spring framework and compete for $1000 in cash prizes!

The goal is simple: Tap into your creativity to build a working software prototype of anything you want using Java and Spring within 48 hours! If you’re new to Spring, don’t worry, we’ll be running a lead-in Spring workshop and technical coaches will be on-hand throughout the event to support.

Any post-secondary student with an interest in Java coding is welcome!


Friday, November 25th
5:00 pm Registration
5:30 pm Kick off
5:45 pm Workshop: Java GUI design using Spring and Java coding conventions
6:30 pm Break/Pizza
6:40 pm Workshop continues
8:00 pm End of workshop
Saturday, November 26th
9:30 am Doors open, coffee/pastries
10:00 am Morning announcements
10:10 am Team formation
10:20 am Idea generation
11:00 am Begin coding!
12:30 pm Catered lunch
6:00 pm Pizza supper
9:00 pm Lab closes but teams are welcome to continue working
Sunday, November 27th
9:30 am Doors open, coffee/pastries
10:00 am Continue coding!
12:30 pm Working lunch: Wrap up coding, create presentation/demo material
3:00 pm Project demos (max 5 minutes per team including questions from judges)
4:00 pm Judging
4:30 pm Winning teams announced, prizes awarded, certificates of participation for all students
4:45 pm Judges to lead feedback session for each team

Project Suggestions

The following project suggestions might help those looking for some inspiration. Of course, you are free to (actually… encouraged to) develop whatever idea/project you want!

Task Scheduler:
— Based on availability of resources design a system that can intelligently identify a resource in nearest location and assign the task. The idea is that a manager should be able to assign 100s of tasks in one click and system identify and assign task based on some rule
In/Out of Office Presence System:
— A digital sign showing if a person was in or out of the office based on entries in their calendar system. The display should be optimized for easy reading and clean/intuitive layout. Imagine affixing a cheap Android tablet to a door.
Food ordering and delivery:
— Implement an intelligent system that can suggest restaurants and menu items based on user choices looking at the past history of orders. And then order the available and selected menu item with delivery system.
E-Signature tool:
— Design a simple e-signature tool that can capture a signature with a simple click on a box and communicate through validating emails.
Minesweeper game
— Implement minesweeper game using effective techniques of flagging and time clock intervals. Also provide ability for competitions of multiple users.
Online Book Rentals
— Design an online system where students can exchange books and can rent them from each other.

Judging Criteria

A small panel of technical judges will evaluate 5-minute demos and project code (no PowerPoint please!) against the criteria listed below. All teams must deploy their final code to a GitHub repository and their working solutions to a cloud environment.

Points Item Criteria
/5 Impressiveness/Creativity – Team delivers something interesting/impressive

– Creativity

– Originality

/5 Quality/Features – Does the software compile/execute?

– Do software crashes/bugs detract from the demo or prevent the presenting team from demoing?

– Are the features relevant for the intended purpose?

/5 Design – Does the solution make good use of Spring framework recommendations and standards?

– Does code make use of interfaces, abstract classes, inheritance and encapsulation?

– Any design pattern followed?

– Unit test coverage?

– Are exceptions handled properly?

– Is logging performed properly?

/5 Java Coding Conventions – Do variable names and function names follow naming conventions and standards?

– Are nested if-else statements restricted to not go beyond 2 levels deep?

– Are compound statements separated by parentheses and line breaks where applicable?

– Is indentation used properly and variable declarations done in the beginning of the method?

– Use of constants and static variables properly executed?



A total of $1000 will be distributed as cash prizes to winning teams.


The following resources will be helpful in advance of, and during, the hack-a-thon:

All teams are required to host their code in a GitHub environment for demo/judging purposes.

Event organizers will also recommend an ideal deployment environment (preferably cloud hosting) each team can use to host their code and final working solution but you are free to use whatever you want. Additional information will be posted here soon.

Nov 25 @ 1:45pm update

Please access the following GitHub repo for the event at We have also created a java-gui-hack-tutorial-and-resources primer file [MS Word] to help set you on the right track.


Faisal Abbas

Faisal is an experienced software engineer specializing in Natural Language Processing and working as a senior developer in QRA. He refers to himself as a polyglot programmer and technology agnostic. He has special knowledge working in web domain including mobile and cloud computing. He has worked on several big projects and took them to completion. He is a seasoned developer and also has served as instructors in Saint Mount University and at NSCC.

email: faisal at

Divya Dola

Currently, Divya Dola is a Masters in Computer Science student at Dalhousie University that is in the process of finishing her academic project and graduating soon. Divya has worked for Chegg Inc. in the past as a Subject Matter Expert and is currently working on a research project with the Boeing company for task resumptions for 3D models on different sized touch devices. She is a Sun Microsystems trained Java Developer (now Oracle Corp.) during which she had gained extensive practical knowledge in developing Java based GUI applications using Spring, Hibernate and MySQL.

email: divyadola02 at

Syed Shahzeb Hasnain

Syed Shahzeb Hasnain is a MACS candidate here at Dalhousie University. He is also a Microsoft Certified Professional who has extensive experience in the financial banking industry. Currently a Research Assistant and Project Manager for Dalhousie Entrepreneurship Society, architecture development has always been a passion for him and has worked with various projects dealing with cloud, mobile and web technologies.
Loves coffee, cookies, Coca Cola and code!

email: syed.hasnain at

Waqas Javed

Waqas is an extremely motivated and enthusiastic Software Developer with 8 years of professional experience. He has a strong educational background in Computer Science and past work experiences in highly dynamic and fast paced environment has allowed him to excel in Java, JSP, Spring JSF, Dot Net and related web technologies.

He is currently working for IBM as a senior developer and team lead and actively using JSF and J2EE technologies to build a huge health based product. He also posses extensive knowledge in Android development and his solely-owned product “Bus App” is actively running and have hundreds of users all over North America.

email: waqas1.2000 at


What is the maximum team size?

The maximum team size is 4 people.

Can I form a team in advance?


Can I register if I don’t have a team?

Yes. On Saturday morning, everyone who is not already part of a team can meet new people and form/join a team.

I’ve just started learning to program (in Java), should I participate?

Of course! The event is designed to help any student currently in a CS/technical degree learn more about (Java) coding/frameworks. If you are eager to challenge yourself, this event is perfect for you. Not only can you learn by exploring some of the resources listed above but you will also learn a lot about coding/Java in the Friday workshop and from other more experienced coders as part of your team and technical coaches at the event.

So teams can literally develop a software program on anything they want?

Yes! Hack-a-thons are the perfect opportunity to try out highly experimental, creative, and original ideas as you’re not constrained by academic or commercial requirements. The hack-a-thon judging criteria has been designed to support this mindset, your team’s ability to make good use of the Spring framework and good coding practices.

If you choose to develop an idea with some commercial potential, you will have the opportunity to receive additional technical and business support directly from ShiftKey Labs and its network of partners.

Can I participate remotely?

No. All participants must attend the event in-person and work directly with your team to actively develop the idea and software.

Do I need to bring my own laptop?

Yes. If you would like to use another computer, for whatever reason, there are 4 desktops (3 with Windows 10, 1 Ubuntu 16.10) with full administrative access available for use during the event.


Please use the following form to register. Online registration will close on Wednesday, November 23rd at 4:00 pm. All online registrants are guaranteed entry.

Late registrations will still be accepted in-person until Friday, November 25th at 5:30 pm (i.e. the start of the workshop) in ShiftKey Labs on a first-come, first-served basis. Space is limited so don’t delay!

IBM Bluemix Hackathon

ShiftKey Labs and IBM are organizing a hackathon over the weekend of March 5th and 6th using the IBM BlueMix platform where students have a chance to win a number of great prizes. Please note that posted information is subject to change based on emerging details about the event. If you would like to be updated on the latest details, please complete and submit the online registration form below. Registrants will be updated via email.

ShiftKey Labs and IBM are organizing a hack-a-thon over the weekend of March 5th and 6th using the IBM Bluemix platform where students have a chance to win a number of great prizes.

  • The event is open to any current post-secondary student in Nova Scotia
  • The goal of the event is to create a good idea and a basic prototype of the app/service by the end of the event
  • There will be a Bluemix introductory workshop in the week leading up to the event
  • All participants are required to bring their own laptops to the IBM Bluemix training session and hack-a-thon
  • There will be three different prize groups of $750 per winning team (therefore students are required to form teams based on these groups):
    • 1st/2nd year undergrads
    • 3rd/4th year undergrads
    • Graduate students
  • The data sets available for use at this event will be from the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal
  • The idea will be judged by both IBM and industry experts (criteria to follow)
  • IBM will provide coaches at the event that are familiar with the technical aspects of the Bluemix platform
  • IBM will provide free access codes to Bluemix for all hack-a-thon participants that are valid for a period of 6 months from the activation date


DAY 1 (Saturday, March 5th)

Start Time Description
9:00 am Registration, mingle, coffee
9:30 am Opening remarks from the Honourable Labi Kousoulis (Minister of Internal Services), Andrew Rau-Chaplin (Dean, Faculty of Computer Science), and Stephen Perelgut (Business Development Manager, IBM Canada)
9:45 am IBM Kick-Off
10:00 am Idea pitches and team formation
10:15 Teams break out and start producing solutions
12:00 pm Lunch & Hack
3:00 pm Snack & Hack
6:00 pm Pizza, Pop, Snack & Hack
9:00 pm End of Day 1 (Lab closes but participants can continue coding if desired)


DAY 2 (Sunday, March 6th)

Start Time Description
9:00 am Doors open, coffee
11:00 am Pitch coaching available for teams looking for an edge
12:00 pm Lunch & Hack
1:00 pm Finalize submissions, teams check that their pitch will show
2:00 pm Judging: Each team has 10 mins to pitch followed by up to 5 mins of questions
(If there are a lot of teams, this time may be reduced)
3:00 pm Refreshments
3:30 pm Announcement of winners and feedback to participants

Registration Form

[ninja_forms id=150]

Supported by:

IBM-logo Shiftkey Labs Logo-white-bg 01 DAL FullMark-Blk


Smart Energy App Challenge

UPDATE: Please access the Smart Energy App Challenge Info Kit Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file for new information about the event.


The Smart Energy App Challenge (aka hackathon) will happen September 26-27, 2015, in Halifax. There will be $10,000 in cash prizes at stake! REGISTER ONLINE TODAY!

Participants will access a data set from Halifax Solar City to develop an app for the program’s customer base. Solar City is HRM’s program that finances solar hot water installations for residents.

The data sets have been prepped by researchers at NSCC and Dalhousie University and will be in CSV format. The data consists of about 20 measured sensors in solar thermal systems installed at residences throughout Halifax. The sensors measure temperature, flow rate, and solar flux. Data has been recorded at a one-minute time step over a period of one year at 50 locations. In addition, metadata is provided for each house, including postal code, house size, solar system details, etc.

Semi-finalists will be named at the hackathon, with winners selected and announced at a demo and awards event. Semi-finalists will have the opportunity to test and refine their apps with simulated real-time data at NSCC prior to awards night.

Hackathon Eligibility and Rules

  • Participants must be a Nova Scotia resident and over 18 years old.
  • All participants must appear in person.
  • You own what you create! All teams retain full ownership of what they have created during the Smart Energy App Challenge.
  • Coding starts at the event – this is what the hackathon is all about!

Judging Criteria

  • 10% Presentation – Did the team clearly communicate their idea? Did they do a good job of turning their idea into an app?
  • 40% Innovation/Impact – Is the app really innovative or a twist on an existing one? Does it have the potential to change user behavior or make an impact on resource use?
  • 25% User Experience – Is the app easy to use? Does it provide good user experience? Does the UI look good?
  • 25% Functionality – Does it work? Is everything fully implemented? Does it offer a lot of functionality or just do one thing? Did the team focus on important features, given the hackathon’s time restrictions?



ShiftKey Labs
Dalhousie University
Goldberg Computer Science Building
6050 University Avenue, Room 426
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 4R2

Please visit the Innovacorp Smart Energy Challenges event page for more information.

SMU Hack-A-Week

This year, on the opening day of the Saint Mary’s University Hack-A-Week, Microsoft is hosting their first IoT Discovery Day! Learn how to build the Internet of Things (IoT). We provide the hardware, the software, and the training. You bring the ideas.

We even have a track just for teachers to help them learn how to help current and future students thrive in a tech world.

More details on the Microsoft IoT Discovery Day.

Here is a sneak peak at some of our prizes for top contestants. There are lots more gadgets and even internship positions from SimplyCast!

First Place Second Place Third Place
University and Open 2 iPad minis 2 Android tablets 2 Chromecasts
Microsoft Student 2 Surface 3 Tablets 2 HP Stream 7 Tablets with Office 365 Personal 2 Intel Compute Sticks

For more information on this event, please visit the SMU Hack-A-Week website (address in Organizer section below).