Call for Code P-TECH Challenge announces top honors

By | 3 minute read | August 17, 2021

The future looks bright for teens who participated in the global Call for Code P-TECH Challenge to propose ways that cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) technology can address social and humanitarian issues related to COVID-19, misinformation, and environmental sustainability.

With 633 students in 11 countries participating, the competition was fierce. A team from a Taiwanese school took top worldwide honors, with a plan for an app that educates and persuades citizens to conserve water. Winners were also named in four regions: United States for North America; Korea for Asia Pacific, Colombia for Latin America, and United Kingdom for Europe. 

These weren’t just any high school aged students, nor was it just any competition. Participants were from P-TECHs – STEM-oriented programs that combine free high school and university studies. Local companies affiliated with these IBM-inspired schools – now in 28 countries – provide students, primarily from underserved and diverse communities, with paid internships, mentorships, and jobs interviews.

These young men and women were competing in a newly created competition as part of Call for Code. Now in its fourth year, the Call for Code initiative aims to drive immediate and lasting humanitarian progress around the world. It has grown to more than 400,000 developers and problem solvers across 179 nations, and has generated more than 15,000 software applications.

As part of the inaugural Call for Code P-TECH Challenge, students spent about three months earlier this year brainstorming and building unique technology approaches to some of society’s toughest challenges. They were guided by P-TECH teachers and 120 mentors and volunteers from IBM, who collectively spent 1,476 hours coaching students, leading virtual and in-person design thinking sessions, and facilitating software “hackathon” coding sessions. 

The global winner – “Team CCYC” from National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan; and National Taipei University of Technology, in Taipei City, Taiwan – proposed an interactive, IBM Watson AI-powered app for a popular local social media platform that would educate and encourage citizens to conserve water. It is designed as “gamified” education, where learners can earn points and digital currency as they master material. Team CCYC proposed linking the app to smart water meters via Internet of Things (IOT) technology to monitor real-world water usage.

The 2021 Call for Code P-TECH Challenge regional winners were in:

  • Korea: Team “AppSense” from the Seoul New Collar School in Seoul, South Korea Students designed an app that would identify eateries and other stores that use eco-friendly, recyclable food packaging. Encouraging consumers to patronize those establishments can help mitigate the effects of increased takeout and delivered food during pandemics like COVID-19.
  • Colombia: Team “Aprender Para Crecer”from the Colegio Gerardo Paredes school in Bogota, Colombia created a blueprint for software to power smart collection bins for recyclable plastic, in an effort to prevent garbage from reaching waterways. The goal is to gamify the collection experience so that scavengers can accrue points – and, potentially, real currency.
  • United Kingdom:  Team “Project Minerva” from Leeds City College 14 – 16 in Leeds, UK proposed an app that would flag potentially inaccurate information on news websites, triggered by weak or missing citations and attributions. This would be particularly useful in obtaining reliable scientific information during pandemics and everyday life.
  • United States:  Team “Tri Consequi” from Navarro High School in Austin, Texas proposed software that addresses social isolation in virtual classrooms, such as during disruptions to in-person learning such as pandemics. They designed a guessing game app, in which classmates draw and describe sketches. It functions as a conversation starter and confidence builder for new peers.

Judges for the evaluation included IBM executives, a youth education expert from National Geographic Society, as well as Taoyuan City’s director of its Department of Information Technology – who is a former national elected official, celebrated social entrepreneur, and equal right advocate. They evaluated each submission for design, effectiveness and efficiency, creativity and innovation, and completeness and transferability.

Student participants shared that the Call for Code P-TECH experience not only helped them become more proficient with important technology, but also strengthened their planning and designing acumen, as well as improved their collaboration and presentation skills, which will prove invaluable for their professional careers. ‘I felt like I was making an impact in my community through my design,” said one student. 

Each member of the winning global team receives a computer tablet, and continued support from IBM design and coding pros  for one additional month to further develop their ideas. In the coming weeks, they will have an opportunity to pitch their idea to an IBM executive, receive feedback on their project’s market feasibility, and get advice on how they might scale the solution for widespread adoption. 

Congratulations to all who participated, and thank for answering the call. We can’t wait to see what’s next!

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