IBM, CUNY Launch Watson Student App Competition

To prepare students for work in big data and analytics, IBM and CUNY launched a competition for students to build Watson-based public service apps.

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The City University of New York (CUNY) along with IBM is sponsoring a competition for students to build innovative apps using IBM's Watson cognitive computing system.

The contest, known as the CUNY-IBM Watson Case Competition, is an opportunity to learn and develop apps for applying the IBM Watson cognitive technology to improve the operation of organizations and the delivery of services to customers. The IBM Watson technology embodies the future, and this competition enables CUNY students to be part of the new generation involved in the jobs and businesses that will be created.

That is why the CUNY Institute for Virtual Enterprise and The Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship at Baruch College are inviting all CUNY students to participate this semester in the CUNY-IBM Watson Case Competition. Registration for the competition opened today and runs through Oct. 20.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams: $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place. Participants also will have an opportunity to sign up for summer 2015 internships, join CUNY Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, work in CUNY's Incubator, and have access to the entrepreneurship network in virtual and real space.

In this competition, Baruch College, CUNY and IBM are looking at ways that IBM Watson can be applied to higher education and the delivery of public services by New York City. The competition will enable student teams to explore ideas and concepts on how cognitive technology can be applied in these two areas.

Indeed, some possible examples to apply IBM Watson are improving the quality and effectiveness of public undergraduate education and helping to better deliver public services such as public safety, health and transportation

Teams of CUNY students will work through various milestones during the fall 2014 semester, while being mentored by IBM, CUNY faculty and other experts in the field. Teams of three to five students will present their preliminary concepts during Watson "boot camp" Oct. 24 and 25. The finalists will participate in a final round of presentations on Jan. 15, 2015, when cash prizes will be awarded to the top three teams.

IBM has made the rounds with Watson at major universities around the country, and Big Blue has been working with these schools to include Watson-related curricula. In 2012, IBM sponsored a case competition at the University of Rochester (UR) Simon School of Business. In that competition, 25 MBA and master of science students with concentrations ranging from marketing and business consulting to finance and entrepreneurship competed in teams submitting seven proposals outlining how Watson's technology could be applied to solve complex challenges in the transportation, energy, retail and public sector industries.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a 24 percent increase in demand for professionals with management analysis skills over the next eight years. The McKinsey Global Institute projects a need for approximately 190,000 more workers with analytics expertise and 1.5 million more data-savvy managers in the United States.

Also in 2012, IBM and Michigan State University joined up to offer the first-ever Watson case study curriculum. The collaboration was part of an ongoing effort to expand and strengthen student skills and understanding of big data and analytics to meet the growing demand for highly skilled analytics workers. IBM has been hosting Watson case competitions and has established project-focused classes with universities. Back then, IBM also completed its first Watson internship program where students experimented with new ways the Watson system could be applied to societal challenges.

And in a Watson case competition at Cornell University, 55 Cornell business and computer science students worked as part of mock IBM Watson commercialization teams, each charged with selecting an industry and developing an application that could best use the IBM Watson system in a real-life business environment.

IBM also opened Watson up to even greater numbers of competitors earlier this year when the company launched the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last February. The IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge was a global competition to encourage developers to create mobile consumer and business apps powered by Watson.

Teams spanning 18 industries from 43 countries submitted more than 400 business concepts that demonstrated how cognitive computing innovations can tackle some of the most challenging societal and business problems. The submissions addressed a wide range of issues, including micro-finance in developing economies, early education learning, and remote diagnosis and treatment using evidence-based health protocols.

In June, IBM named three winners of the competition: GenieMD, Majestyk Apps and Red Ant. The winners each will receive support from IBM to advance their concepts into the market. When IBM launched the IBM Watson Group last January, it also announced $100 million in venture investments to support an ecosystem of entrepreneurs developing Watson-powered apps.