RBC hackathon looks for 'Next Great Innovator'

Source: Royal Bank of Canada

For hackathon pros, coming together over a weekend to design, code, and learn new skills from their peers is the new social gathering.

Coffee flows freely, snacks are plentiful and the bar is set by the team who can develop the best idea. At the 10th anniversary of RBC Next Great Innovator (NGI), an annual competition that encourages technological innovation among Canada's bright young minds, nearly 130 students worked through the night ideating, coding and hacking as they competed for bragging rights, and a top prize of $10,000.

Over 33 hours, participants in 35 teams from 18 schools across the country focused on this challenge: build an innovative prototype of a mobile, tablet or web app that RBC could offer to help small business owners start, manage and grow their business. This year, the first-place award went to:

Team Sidekick, from University of Toronto, Western University and University of Waterloo
"We're always looking for fresh ideas to better serve our clients, and students bring innovative and creative thinking to the table to help us do that," said Sumit Oberai, senior vice-president of digital development, RBC. "They get the opportunity to solve real-life business challenges, while we get exposure to the latest technologies they're using, so it's a win-win."

The judging panel, which included two small business owners and clients of RBC, Kim Renton and Kathy Young Keefe of Envy Pillow, faced a difficult task: deciding the winners. So difficult that two teams tied for each of second and fourth place, with each team receiving $5,000 and $2,000 respectively.

"The calibre of ideas generated to solve this year's challenge of helping small businesses thrive was incredible," said Jason Storsley, vice-president of small business, RBC. "With Envy Pillow at the table we were able to hone in on the solutions that would continue to deliver exceptional client experiences to our small business clients. And the result was five teams in the winners' circle."

But while the prizes are lucrative, they're not necessarily what drive students to participate in events like this. For Alyssia Jovellanos, in her second year of Computer Science at McMaster University, the hackathon is an opportunity to apply what's learned in the classroom to solve real-world problems through creative experimentation.

"Competing in hackathons like NGI gives me the chance to build something from scratch and test new ideas," said Jovellanos, whose augmented reality project tied for second place. "It's just so cool to apply your knowledge and turn it into something completely different that will solve a problem or positively impact someone's business."

Jovellanos just completed a summer work term with RBC, but for other students another benefit of participating in the hackathon is the ample opportunity to learn about RBC and gain exposure to the recruitment team. As one of the largest employers of tech professionals in Canada, RBC is committed to identifying those extremely talented youth who display superior business and technological skills. RBC has long legacy of helping youth realize their potential through a wide range of initiatives. Programs like NGI and RBC Amplify help young people find and pursue their path to success with confidence.

About RBC's Next Great Innovator
Since its start in 2006, the RBC Next Great Innovator (NGI) Challenge has received over 700 post-secondary student team submissions and almost 3,000 student participants. Prior to 2013, NGI was strictly an essay competition. Since then, three of RBC's four events have been prototyping hackathons.

Over the years, numerous ideas put forward by NGI participants have been tested and streamlined in the RBC Innovation Experience Lab and some have been developed for use at RBC. One example is RBC Connect, RBC's digital social collaboration tool, which was the eventual implementation of an idea submitted during the 2009 challenge, which sought to identify ways to transform the workplace to match the needs of an evolving and diverse workforce.

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