SAS & Higher Colleges of Technology Host Hackathon to Develop Emirati Talent in Data Science

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Students from the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) battled wits and Big Data, as the HCT  Faculty of Computer Information Science (CIS)  convened the ‘SAS Data Science Hackathon 2019’ in cooperation with SAS, the leader in business analytics, and several leading public and private entities.

The three-day SAS Hackathon competition hosted 25 CIS students from HCT campuses in Dubai, Sharjah and Al Ain, who presented solutions to a range of real-life problems and challenges using SAS advanced solutions capable of analyzing and handling big data.

Day one included intensive student training provided by SAS on solutions to be used during the software challenge, including the key software SAS VIYA Data Science Platform, which supports the end-to-end process of data science. Day two saw students given real-life challenges related to traffic incidents in Dubai, along with open data from Dubai Pulse to apply data science techniques and provide root cause analysis and recommendations to make driving safer. The final day saw the shortlisted teams present their results to the judging panel.

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HCT-Dubai campuses’ Executive Director Dr. Hashim Al Zaabi, said: “We are delighted to organize this event in cooperation with SAS, which provided students with training on how to analyze and use big data in creating solutions for challenges faced by different industries. This collaboration with SAS is not the first, and we are planning to advance it in the future as part of HCT’s enthusiasm to enable our students with the much needed advanced technological skills, particularly in artificial intelligence and big data. This cooperation aims at inventing ideas and creative solutions to serve the needs of different sectors and their development plans.”

“It is important that students have these skills and face these challenges in partnership with specialized, international entities, within the framework of HCT’s ‘fourth generation’ plan, which aims at preparing students for the future, enabling them with the skills of the 4thIndustrial Revolution, developing their ideas as well as supporting them in establishing their own enterprises. We appreciate the cooperation with SAS and all different entities that participated in guiding and judging the competition,” Dr. Al Zaabi added.

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Alaa Youssef, Managing Director of SAS Middle East, said: “We are committed to helping develop the talent pool for data science within the UAE, and we are grateful for the support we have received from HCT and various government entities to enable students to compete in SAS Data Science Hackathon. This event provided students with insights into real-world problems, with the aid of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence processes.”

Dr. Nasser Nassiri, Assistant Professor of Computer Information Science at HCT and SAS Hackathon Coordinator, said: “Our division has previously worked with SAS in training a number of teaching staff on how to perform advanced data analysis using AI skills, in order to turn data into valuable and actionable insights and provide solutions to problems and challenges.”

“This collaboration is moving towards further development, and the organization of the SAS Data Science Hackathon targeted 25 students from the Computer Information Science Program across a number of colleges. The students were divided into several teams and participated over three days in the event.”

“What was special about this competition is that it had full support from a number of leading government entities and private sector companies. Representatives from the Ministry of Community Development, DP World, Department of Health Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Food control authority and Accord Business Group, supervised the teams during training and competition while also participated in judging the contest. The winning teams were rewarded with recognition gifts by these entities,” Dr. Nassiri concluded.

Eng. Thamer Rashed Al Qasemi, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority spokesperson said: “The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) has always laid emphasis on being part of such competitions and workshops that help promote the education sector, especially with regards to data science, which has become a central focus in decision-making processes, business planning and implementation of programs across all local and international institutions.”

“Data science is the basis of a forward-looking approach, predicting and optimizing challenges and innovative opportunities. It is a fundamental pillar of sustainable and holistic development efforts, based on technology of the future and artificial intelligence in particular. Data efficiency will bring about the required change in all sectors,” he added.