2018 Winners

SIGHPC Congratulates Winners of the Inaugural Computing4Change Competition

The SIGHPC Computing4Change (C4C) competition played out over two and a half intense days at SC18 in Dallas, November 11-14, 2018.

The winning Computing4Change team, L-R: Claire Fiorino, Erika Bailon (Mentor), Nilo Espinoza, and Hoano Rosario. Not pictured: Peizhu “Pam” Qian

The topic selected for the competition was violence, and the winning team of four undergraduates completed their project, “Resisting Cultural Acceptance of Violence” in just 2.5 days. The winners took home a $250 cash prize.

The sixteen competition participants were selected competitively from hundreds of applicants from around the world last spring. The students then spent the summer developing key computing and critical thinking skills, through a series of webinars. They were grouped into teams when they arrived in Dallas, and then spent the next 3 days learning to function as a unit, to first identify their approach to the topic, and then work together to do research, analyze data, and develop and present potential solutions. Students did not know the topic prior to arrival, and selecting the general concept of violence enabled students to engage with aspects of the issue that were especially meaningful to them.

The competition began Monday morning, and on Wednesday, November 14, the four teams offered their final presentations. The winning team studied cultural acceptance of violence by researching rates of domestic violence, suicide, and gun violence across the United States, and presented thoughtful potential solutions, including GPS and biometric technology to reduce gun violence in schools, as well as artificial intelligence as a first step towards preventing suicides and reducing domestic violence. This team consisted of: Peizhu “Pam” Qian (Simmons College), Hoano Rosario (Chaminade University of Honolulu), Nilo Espinoza (University of Guam), and Claire Fiorino (San Diego State University).

“It’s amazing to see what the students are capable of in such a short time,” said Rosalia Gomez, Computing4Change organizing team lead and TACC Education Coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin. “We learned so much from their diverse perspectives, approaches and ideas.”

C4C offers students the opportunity to put their classroom learning to the test in a real world setting, focusing on a topic they can engage with on a personal level. “The central idea,” observes Kelly Gaither, director of Director of Health Analytics at TACC, and co-creator of the competition, “is that the traditional focus of computing in our society today is the technology. But many of today’s most talented students are more interested in having an impact on the world around them than in technology as an end in itself. We created Computing4Change to reach those students.”

Each team put its own spin on the competition topic, and worked hard to not only make the topic personal and relatable, but made sure that their arguments were proven (or disproven) using data. Each team presented its findings to a panel of judges, with the requirement that each student participate actively during the presentation. This posed another challenge, because many of them were not used to public speaking. They supported each other, and through teamwork and collaboration, were able to take ownership of what they were learning.

“We are very excited to work with the Computing4Change team to put on this competition,” commented Jeff Hollingsworth, chair of SIGHPC and CIO at the University of Maryland, “and we are especially grateful to SC18, ACM, and the Texas Advanced Computing Center for financial support and expertise over the past twelve months.”

Computing4Change participants, staff and mentors.