I am passionate about learning. It‘s the rocket fuel that drives innovation.

That’s why I’m excited to see AT&T provide opportunities for young minds in Slovakia. Just recently, 140 coders and developers in 21 teams took part in AT&T’s first Slovakian Hackathon, the V4 Hackathon, at the Technical University of Košice.

Why Slovakia? This central European country has a highly educated, technically oriented workforce with incredible multilingual skills. In Slovakia, AT&T numbers nearly 3,700. That’s including my team who support our global business customers.

Nurturing innovation in Slovakia

It’s in our interest to nurture innovation in Slovakia.

The hackathon did just that, asking coders to tackle the challenges of modern living with a winning Internet of Things (IoT) solution. They got to focus on one of four key themes of healthcare, home, sustainability or smart cities.

It was an exhausting – but rewarding – 24-hours of coding and problem solving, starting on Friday afternoon and running into Saturday.

Throughout the event participants had access to technical mentors who were on hand to offer support, insight, code samples and tools for creating apps. And plenty of energy drinks, all-important resting areas and massages to get them to the finishing line!

Smart ideas

The results were truly impressive. A panel of experts from AT&T, the Technical University of Košice and PC Revue had the hard task of choosing the final winning team. The winners received cash prizes as well as ongoing mentoring to help them in their studies and future career.

That accolade went to the SpaceCode team. They assembled a functional ‘smart water bottle’ with a flow-through valve and volume measurement sensor to check on the amount of liquid a person consumes. A red or green light indicates whether their daily water intake is within the recommended amount, as well as monitoring for temperature and, in the future, water quality.

The runners up created an application that helped reserve parking spaces in the city, particularly in busy hospital car parks.  And, an app for monitoring a patient’s vital signs.

Continuous learning

The judges also rewarded the 5 most inspirational participants with vouchers for online nanodegrees. Our efforts in nurturing and supporting top tech talent goes beyond hackathons. We worked with the Technical University of Košice to open a research and education center focused on IoT.  We supported the university in upgrading the technical infrastructure in the lab to meet teaching requirements.

Our work with universities and hackathons sends an important message: Continuous learning is a cornerstone to success.

At AT&T, we continuously transform our own workforce as new technologies emerge. We’ve gone from a hardware-based network to a Software Defined Network. We’ve been leaders in introducing every new generation of mobile technology, including 5G.

IoT can bring new possibilities to the young minds in Slovakia. Rocket fuel for innovation indeed.