Tue08222017

Last updateWed, 16 Aug 2017 8am

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Students Win $1,500 in Software Challenge

Students Excel CompetitionStudent teams competed for a grand prize of $1,500 in a challenge to create a ‘chatbot,’ a knowledge-management software that companies implement in their customer service departments on Feb. 4, in Pozycki Auditorium. The event was hosted by the School of Science and Business School, along with Edison knowledge provider, RightAnswers, an information technology organization that’s focus is on creating accessible customer service for other companies.

The RightAnswers@ Monmouth University Chatbot Challenge demonstrated students’ collective efforts to work in a team and create a helpful and inventive ‘chatbot.’ The event included students in teams of three that were a mixture of business, software engineering, and computer science majors.

The winners of the Chatbot Challenge were the team Binary Trio, with their chatbot, “Shadow.” The team consisted of Anthony Vazzana, a senior business student, Nicole Puccio, a senior marketing student, and Giuseppe Licata, a senior computer science student.

The three teams that competed were named “Binary Trio,” “Bot City,” and “C++ Get Degrees.” Binary Trio came up with a bot playfully named “Shadow” that retrieved information on the University’s website in a swift fashion. Bot City’s bot created different meal choices for people with difficult health needs. Lastly, C++ Get Degrees’ bot called “CampMe” was focused on giving campers survival tips, keeping campers’ safety at the forefront of the bot’s purpose.

Students were allowed a few weeks for preparation and planning with help and guidance from various professors at the University and representatives from RightAnswers, for the event. There were three teams of three that competed for the grand prize.

Jamie Kretsch, Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, was involved with the fruition of this event. She said, “What really helped was the kickoff event held in Young Auditorium – students from both programs were able to mingle with RightAnswers staff and our faculty, and a conversation between a business student and a RightAnswers executive often brought a student from computer science into the conversation, and before you knew it they were off on their own discussing ideas and whether they wanted to work together.”

Winners were chosen based on the final product they came up with. Teams also had to floor questions from audience and panel members from RightAnswers. The leader of the panel was University alum Jeff Weinstein, President and CEO of RightAnswers.

The three teams that competed were named “Binary Trio,” “Bot City,” and “C++ Get Degrees.” Binary Trio came up with a bot playfully named “Shadow” that retrieved information on the University’s website in a swift fashion. Bot City’s bot created different meal choices for people with difficult health needs. Lastly, C++ Get Degrees’ bot called “CampMe” was focused on giving campers survival tips, keeping campers’ safety at the forefront of the bot’s purpose.

Further preparation was offered to students in the form of a seminar conducted by Richard Scherl, an associate professor of computer science & software engineering. Kretsch explained, “The seminar introduced students to chatbot technology. Zahra Yaramadi, of the team Bot City, was present and full of questions as she worked through ideas for the project, which was fitting since as the business side of the team she would prepare the business plan to discuss why their chatbot addressed a need. 

Licata said that his team found the event to be important in learning other disciplines. He said, “We all agree that working in a project with someone outside of our major and schools of study is very rewarding.”

Puccio added that the team thought that the School of Science and the School of Business should collaborate more frequently. “It should be a requirement for students of different areas of study to work on some type of project that incorporates the science and business,” she said.

According to Kretsch, the event was a huge success and she hopes to see more events like this on campus. She said, “We are so appreciative that RightAnswer’s CEO Jeff Weinstein and his team offered this opportunity to our students, and we would love to have additional events like this. Partnering with local industry to provide students an opportunity to work with and be mentored by professionals is the kind of experience that we’d love all students to have.”

IMAGE COURTESY of Gary Schwartzf

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