Conestoga news

November 3, 2023 4:16 PM

Software engineering students place first at provincial hackathon

A team of students and a recent graduate of Conestoga’s Software Engineering Technology program placed first at the Bell Geekfest 2023 Hackathon at the end of September. Hosted at the Bell office in Mississauga, the event involved 45 teams of Ontario college students and graduates developing solutions to address online privacy and security.

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Software Engineering Technology 2023 graduate Zac Macdonald and students Peter Strzelbicki and Vince Tummillo placed first at the Bell Geekfest 2023 Hackathon. L-R: Zac Macdonald, Peter Strzelbicki and Vince Tummillo.

Zac Macdonald, Peter Strzelbicki and Vince Tummillo developed a solution to address social engineering, which refers to the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information, including influencing someone to gain control of their computer remotely.

“Our task was to create an innovative solution to protect sensitive data from cyber-attacks and ensure data privacy,” said Strzelbicki. “We tried to tailor our solution to our strengths as a group and chose to focus on social engineering.”

The solution terminates processes typically used to control devices remotely and sends an email about suspicious activity to a trusted individual known to the victim. The goal is to protect vulnerable demographics who may not have technology literacy skills, including the elderly.

“We were trying to do something that was simple but at the same time, it’s a practical topic. I think it helped us that it was a real issue,” Strzelbicki continued. “It was reassuring that everything we’ve learned so far in the program has made us capable of developing innovative solutions. The fact that we were able to win with just two years in the program was validating and a huge boost of confidence.”

Teams of two to four students were presented the challenge on Friday evening and had until mid-day Sunday to complete solutions and finalize presentations before presenting to an audience and panel of industry judges. As part of their first-place honour, the team received a monetary prize of $500 each.  

“The hackathon was an opportunity to apply my skills practically,” said Tummillo. “The whole experience excited me and opened my eyes to what life will be like when I graduate. I’m excited to take my skills into the workforce and this validated that the skills I have are real, useful and sought after.”

The Bell Geekfest 2023 Hackathon - Ontario event brought together Ontario college students and graduates in collaboration with Bell Canada. In addition to the competition, participants also had the opportunity to explore Bell’s leadership and internship programs, participate in networking sessions, and attend technical presentations and mentoring sessions.

Conestoga’s Software Engineering Technology program provides a focused, hands-on approach to learning a broad base of languages and technologies, including web development, databases, business intelligence and cybersecurity, and prepares students for a successful career in software development.