Edinburgh University computer science students win chance to be mentored by Google experts

A group of computer science students from Edinburgh University have won the chance to work with renowned industry experts to create an app which will aid a challenge faced by the public during the pandemic.

By Caitlyn Dewar
Monday, 26th April 2021, 7:00 am
George and his team have created MaskIt, alongside a Google mentor from Texas which tracks the amount of waste caused by face masks
George and his team have created MaskIt, alongside a Google mentor from Texas which tracks the amount of waste caused by face masks

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In August last year, students were sent a communication inviting them to take part in a hackathon event, named Hack for the People, which is an event designed to engage students in tackling some of the world’s largest problems.

George Karabassis, Adrien Zier and Eve Bogomil, who are all computer science students at Edinburgh University signed up and soon became a team.

The trio of computer science students from Edinburgh University have never met, and have been working together virtually to create the app

The trio chose to tackle an environmental challenge and came up with the idea to create an app, named MaskIt, that tracks the use of face masks and records how much waste the user has caused.

The hackathon required each team to design the product and submit a final presentation video which would explain what their innovation was about.

Out of 83 Hack for the People Teams, who were mostly students from the USA, the Edinburgh University students were one of just two teams who won a Google Cloud award and the chance to be mentored by and work with a software engineer from Google in Texas to make their app become a reality.

George said: “We were really shocked that we won the mentorship and to be recognised by Google is an incredible achievement. We really weren’t expecting it.

“We’ve been working with the Google engineer and have learned a lot, we’ve been working on perfecting the app alongside our studies as well which has been a challenge because we are all second and third years and it seems that there is another assignment every week.

“I took over the development of the app as well as leading the team, where Adrien works on the UX and UI design and Eve on getting the data for the masks, illustrations, sketches and research.

“As now the mentorship program comes to an end, 15 teams were invited to demonstrate their work with the Google judges, taking place between April 26 and 30 where 14 teams are based in the United States. We are the only team based outside the US!”

Now, the team is preparing to virtually present their idea on Tuesday to a renowned panel of Google judges and are planning to launch MaskIt in the app store on both Apple and Android next month.

George now hopes that young people will be motivated to take on new and difficult challenges, and not give up on the first hurdle.

He added: “A very important lesson I learned from this process is to grab as many opportunities as possible. Along with this competition, I had taken part in five other similar competitions before, of course again with teams but with different people each time.

“In my first competition, me and my team were one of the final teams out of about 18 that didn’t receive a single mention from the judges.

“I think that it is very important tο not give up on the first or second try.”

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the trio have not yet met in person and have been working together on the app virtually.

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