Langley, British Columbia—Bill Gardner, assistant professor of computing science at Trinity Western University, spent last month deciding more than final grades. As the only Canadian chosen to judge the first annual Computer Society International Design Competition in Washington, D.C., Gardner combined his knowledge and expertise with that of professionals from companies such as the IBM TJ Watson Research Center and Japan’s Fujitsu Laboratories to determine the winning teams for the competition.
Hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society and open to undergraduate students, the competition attracted 180 applicants from universities around the world. Fifty student teams from various universities were randomly selected and each team was provided with a project kit to design a special-purpose computer-based device intended to provide a solution for a real-world problem. While Trinity Western University’s computing science team had hoped to be among the 50 selected teams for competition, the random process did not rule in their favor. However, the odds were in the favor of the IEEE Computer Society, as Trinity Western’s application led to the discovery of one of the competition’s judges, Bill Gardner.
Gardner, one of ten judges from universities and computer industries around the world and the only Canadian to be chosen to sit on the judging panel, was excited to be a part of the event. “In the past there have been similar competitions for electrical engineering and mechanical engineering students,” says Gardner. “This is the first international competition with such prestige and high-value awards available for design teams of computer science students.”
The organizers of the competition selected judges who hold a strong academic background or significant industrial experience in embedded systems—that is, commercial products that incorporate one or more processors. Gardner’s seven years experience in this field as well as his research on the topic gained him entry on both accounts.
Though it was his first time judging a competition, Gardner felt quite at home. “The process was familiar,” says Gardner. “I use the same evaluation methods to judge group projects in the software engineering class and other computing science classes that I teach at Trinity Western.”
After extensive e-mail consultations among ten evaluation teams and a two-day meeting among the ten judges in Virginia, the judging panel selected the top ten finalists.
The judges then convened in Washington, D.C., to meet the finalists from locations ranging from Moscow State University to the University of Hong Kong, listen to presentations, observe demonstrations and make their final decision on the winner and subsequent four recipients also taking home prize money.
“Each judge brought different insights to the table. The industry people had their own idea of what constitutes a good model for a product, whereas the academic people were often more impressed by something that showed a research element to it,” says Gardner. “It was good to have that diversity in the judging panel.”
With over US$65,000 awarded in prizes and financial aid funds, the judges’ decision was no small matter.
For Gardner, it was an honor to be part of process. “There are a lot of fine computer science departments in Canadian universities,” says Gardner. “It was a privilege to be chosen as the Canadian judge.”
Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a privately funded Christian liberal arts university enrolling 2,763 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 34 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counselling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.
Last Updated: 2012-08-21