Kiwi students’ home help devices impress local companies

“Learning what the industry wants and seeing actual companies talk about who and what they want is the biggest draw card to Summer of Tech."

Wellington engineering students impressed potential employers by building sophisticated home automation devices within a day at this year’s Summer of Tech Hardware Hackfest.

Seventeen students from Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) and Weltec participated in the hackfest, held on August 15.

The students were grouped in five teams and had to plan, build and demonstrate a tech device within the theme of Home Automation, using only Arduino kits and other equipment supplied to them on the day.

The winning team, Catfud, built an automatic cat feeder. Runners-up, Cactus Flower, built an automatic plant watering system and third placegetters, Team e-motion, built a motion sensor that detected room entry.

Industry mentors from Embrium, Times-7, Tekron and ikeGPS were on hand to help the students throughout the day and a number of businesses, including Nasdaq-listed wireless technology company Aviat, came along to check out the talent.

Victoria University Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering student Mayur Panchal said he really enjoyed being part of Team e-motion and the internship programme in general.

“Learning what the industry wants and seeing actual companies talk about who and what they want is the biggest draw card to Summer of Tech,” Panchal adds.

“I love how the hackfest gives students the opportunity to have some fun with what they know, while helping to get their name out in the job market.”

Victoria University Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering student Andrew Ang, part of the winning team Catfud, said the hackfest gave him the opportunity to learn new skills with microcontrollers.

“I really appreciate Summer of Tech rounding up companies such as Trademe or Xero to allow student engineers to interact with them at events,” Ang adds.

“The insight into the field of technology is really important and prepares students for after graduation. It’s certainly a chance to get yourself a career with a top company in Wellington.”

Richard Fortune, founder of Makers Org NZ and facilitator of the hardware hackfest said the event was an ideal opportunity to evaluate the individual efforts of the students and gave potential employers a chance to see the various skills each brings to the table.

“The projects they delivered were exciting and well thought through,” Fortune adds.

“The students presented fantastically and the judges took almost an hour to deliberate over the 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. That's a testimony to the calibre of the students and the commitment of the mentors if you ask me.”

The Summer of Tech internship programme has been connecting tech employers with students for paid summer jobs since 2006 and last year expanded to include manufacturing employers and engineering students specialising in electronics, mechatronics and robotics.

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