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Wellington students shine at Summer of Tech event

04 Sep 15

A team of engineering students from Wellington have impressed potential employers at this year’s Summer of Tech Hardware Hackfest.

Seventeen students from Victoria University and Weltec took part in the Summer of Tech event, tasked with building sophisticated home automation devices.

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.

Students taking part are mainly from Victoria and Massey universities, WelTec, Whitireia, and Yoobee.

The programme is sponsored by tech companies, tertiary institutions and Grow Wellington.

The students were grouped in five teams and had to plan, build and demonstrate a tech device, 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 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 says. “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.”

Through the programme, companies obtain student interns for 10 weeks between November and February. Prospective students take part in CV clinics, site visits, boot camps and hackfests throughout the year to prepare them for future employment.

The majority of students work on 10-week projects in software development, however, increasingly businesses are taking on students for projects in mobile and web development, testing, support, analytics, business analysis and design.

Andrew Ang, Victoria University Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering student, 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,” he says. “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, says 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 says. “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."

 At least two out of three students who participate in Summer of Tech internships are successful in gaining employment with their host company or another company.

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