Published on 17 November 2016
A University of the Sunshine Coast student and lecturer have ‘hacked’ their way to two major prizes at a high-pressure 48-hour software development competition.
Senior Lecturer in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Dr Mark Utting and student Michael Liu joined forces at the recent Sunshine Coast GovHack, an event in which teams use open-access government data to create a ‘hack’ software project.
Forming the Community Companion team with local engineer Michael Conolly, the group developed an Android app to help elderly and disabled people at risk of social isolation to engage with information about local services, businesses and healthcare.
The application, which was conceptualised as an interactive, talking robot, won both the Queensland-wide Age-Friendly Community award and the Sustainability prize for the Sunshine Coast.
Mr Liu, 25, said the competition provided an ideal opportunity to put programming skills he had learnt at USC into action.
“We extracted data from government websites and used it to generate information that older people would need – medical facilities, shops that give seniors discounts, and public transport,” he said.
“I love using ICT skills and knowledge to do something creative, and the GovHack weekend was a great challenge.
“Open data really is the future. Businesses are placing a much bigger emphasis on looking at what data they have, and extract value from it – to make money or come up with solutions to problems.”
Dr Utting said after working together intensively over two days at Maroochydore’s Spark Bureau coworking space, the team was delighted to be named winners of two of the competitive awards.
“I think our project is a great example of how ICT can be used to actively improve people’s lives,” he said. “To get a statewide award was really satisfying.
“It was fantastic to see one of our students, Michael, taking the initiative to get involved in a creative project like this and using the knowledge from his USC courses in a practical way.”
USC’s success in software development will also be showcased tomorrow, when the second annual Serious Games Showcase from 5.30-9.30pm is held at the University’s main campus at Sippy Downs.
The event, to be held on the first floor of Building E, will give the public a chance to try out innovative games developed by Serious Games students that are designed to inspire social change, while also providing entertainment.
— Gen Kennedy