Silicon Valley Comes to Southampton

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Students from Southampton and other Universities have descended on the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) for the first ‘Silicon Valley Comes to the UK’ Appathon, which will see teams competing to create apps using Government data.

Working in teams, students are competing in a national competition against students from other universities, with a similar event in Oxford this weekend, after events in Edinburgh, Sheffield, Cambridge and London last weekend. Ideas have involved using data made available by the UK Government, Southampton University and any other source available.

The event is being supported by mentors from industry, including representatives of Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Ordnance Survey and local Snowflake Software, who have provided sponsored t-shirts.

Teams are creating apps for Android, iOS and Nokia smartphones as well as web-based applications, using datasets like reported crimes, government spending information and even declared personal interests of Cabinet members (believe it or not, David Cameron is President of the Oxford Beekeeper’s Association).

The day started in the ECS building with introductions from Chris Gutteridge, who organised the Southampton appathon, who is also responsible for Southampton’s effort to provide data in a machine-readable format, which has so far yielded a range of student-created apps.

Short ‘elevator pitch’-style introductions were given by each industry mentor, and students formed teams to start creating apps, spreading out throughout computer labs and seminar rooms around the department.

Glyn Wintle

One organisation supporting the event is LinkedGov, a non-profit who aim to improve the quality of data published by the government. Glyn Wintle, LinkedGov’s self-proclaimed head code-monkey, who is mentoring at the event, said: “I think the idea of students working with real data, with it’s real problems, and building applications that could be commercially viable is a cool idea”.

The competition continues with students working with mentors on a range of ideas, which is expected to continue into the night. Many teams are using the hashtags #svc2uk and #soton on Twitter.

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