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Jan. 27, 2016

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Scott King and Vaughan Hilts, two computer science majors at Laurier, are living proof that great things can be accomplished with little sleep, limited time, and open data.

King and Hilts, participants in Communitech’s Waterloo Hacks competition held over the Jan. 24 – 26 weekend, came away from the 46-hour hack-a-thon as winners of the Thomson Reuters Challenge for Best Use of Data. The students created Acre, a mobile application that helps users, such as recent university and college graduates, find a suitable city to live based on their preferred field of work and lifestyle requirements.

“As we’re both interested in careers in software development, we asked ourselves about the ideal location to live if we are going to work in this field,” said King. “We created something to answer that question and tailored it to the end user.”

Built with a classic JavaScript stack, Acre makes use of open data for its criteria – employment statistics, salaries, workforce demands, population densities, and additional factors – to create an “Acre score” for the career choices searched by the end user.

The win provides King and Hilts with a visit to Thomson Reuters’ (TR) headquarters in Toronto, where they will meet with developers and software engineers, receive mentoring and coaching, and have the chance to pitch Acre to some of TR’s leading clients.

“The computer science faculty members at Laurier do a great job encouraging their students to get involved in events like this,” said Hilts, who assisted with the development of the Android platform for HawkMobile, a campus information app for Laurier students.

Professor Ilias Kotsireas, who has taught King and Hilts, was confident in their ability to succeed at the weekend event.

“These two definitely have potential,” said Kotsireas. “I’m doubly excited.”

Approximately 175 students from Laurier, the University of Waterloo, and Conestoga College participated in the weekend event that included data challenges issued by major sponsors such as Manulife, Thomson Reuters and Canadian Tire.


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