North Forge hosting virtual 48-hour hackathon to combat cheating and engage students

By: Margaret Spratt

Learning from home has birthed a new set of challenges for college and university students. North Forge Fabrication Lab is collaborating with post-secondary schools around the province to find a solution.

“Home used to be the place I turned my brain off,” said Jake Bell, a student at The University of Winnipeg who is currently learning remotely.

Bell said he finds himself wondering when the workday ends and time off begins. 

“Everything sort of blends together,” he said. 

This can result in students becoming overwhelmed, overworked, and overtired, leading to poor engagement during classes. North Forge is looking for the solution.

“We want students to come up with an idea to make remote learning better,” said Co-Founder and CEO of North Forge, Joelle Foster. 

Foster teamed up with the Department Chair of Business and Administrations at The University of Winnipeg, Rosalie Harms, in search of possible solutions. 

Jake Bell stands in front of The University of Winnipeg on Oct. 17, 2020.

“We’ve seen challenges students are facing with engagement and cheating and thought, ‘What could we do to engage students?’” Foster said.

From that question stemmed the idea of North Forge’s 48-hour hackathon. 

On Nov. 22, students who have registered for the event will be put into teams of three to five. Each team will come up with two innovative ideas: one way to engage students, and one way to stop students from cheating. 

Bell said he is looking forward to what students will come up with during the competition. 

“That would be really good to have people from different walks of life sitting down and making things more efficient,” said Bell.

While Bell agrees that engagement is an issue, he said he’s not so sure cheating is an issue. 

Bell said he believes academic integrity shouldn’t be the focus of the virtual event, especially considering everything students are struggling with like isolation and the state of the world.

The Red River College Exchange District campus looks abandoned on Oct. 17, 2020.

“I think that’s probably the last of my concerns,” said Bell. 

The Hackathon will conclude with teams presenting their solutions to a panel of judges. Participants can win $10,000 in prizes.  

Students enrolled in a Manitoba post-secondary institution (such as Asper School of Business, Red River College, and The University of Winnipeg) can register for free online. The competition will begin at noon on Nov. 22 and will run until noon on Nov. 24.