Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, WIMTACH has continued its efforts to support its Student Researchers to gain experiential learning, job opportunities, employable skills and industry knowledge of digital health sectors. This series will highlight how students and faculty who work with WIMTACH are managing the ongoing changes to their daily lives.
Teamwork is the cornerstone of a successful applied research project. As the pandemic continues, WIMTACH Student Researchers have been using creative and innovative ways to work with their fellow Researchers and industry clients. While these ways have increased capacity for collaboration, they also continue to provide students with soft skills that increase employability. Akshay Kumar, a recent graduate of the Software Engineering Technology program, realized this on his first interaction with WIMTACH – a hackathon event.
He joined a hackathon February of last year. Ian Xun, owner of Anansi Moving Images Inc, collaborated with WIMTACH to host the event, which included 28 students. The challenge was to create a mobile application that could use augmented reality to detect an image and connect users to other related media, such as audio and video. Akshay placed third and was able to learn more about WIMTACH through Majura, WIMTACH Research Associate who specializes in mobile application development. He then decided to apply for a position as Student Researcher
After a successful interview, Akshay was hired because of his diverse skill set, which includes full stack development, augmented reality and experience with the Android development environment.
“I started working at WIMTACH after my second month in College, March 2019. One of my roommates already started working at WIMTACH. He started a few months before me. [My friends and WIMTACH Student Researchers] Devesh and Oleksandr both presented me to WIMTACH. Before then, I had no project with WIMTACH.”
His first project with WIMTACH industry partner Reform Reality made Akshay feel “really confident”. However, as the project progressed, he realized that the work “was not that easy soon after”. In other words, he was not aware that applied research projects included project management and paperwork, in addition to the technical work. On the job, he learned a valuable lesson that WIMTACH aims to deliver through experiential learning – communication. “I really learned how to speak to the client not just technically, but also in a way where I understand what his requirements are and what he really needs, even if he can’t explain it in a technical way,” he said in an interview.
Akshay has been a Student Researcher on several projects following the Reform Reality project. He worked on projects such as iMerciv and Mama’s Life Products. On the latter project, Akshay got the opportunity to be a mentor to a new Student Researcher. “Mohammed came on the project later on. It was the first project for him and I had to guide him and I do my part. It was the first time I had to guide someone in this development.”
Right before the pandemic, Akshay was meeting with the WIMTACH team on a new project with a health IT company. When the pandemic became a reality, priorities shifted and correspondence changed.
“At the start it wasn’t difficult because we were all together and we could solve problems quickly. During the pandemic, we’d have to have long calls [to find solutions to challenges]. It was the first experience for me to work from home. But later on, it has become easy…”
One major thing Akshay has learned while on this project is being task-oriented. Because he was working on a team virtually, it was important to “understand what the client is saying and try to explain it to other people in a technical way”, a reverse application of the valuable lesson he had learned earlier. The project has allowed him to apply the lessons, skills and experiences he’s had on WIMTACH projects from the very beginning.
“The best part of this project is that it is challenging. I’m learning a lot in just a small amount of time. In this last months I worked for Alpha, I learned things that I couldn’t or didn’t expect to learn in my program courses or by myself… [WIMTACH projects] are hands on. You have to work with other people.”
For more #WIMTACHatHome stories, please visit: https://wimtach.centennialcollege.ca/news/
For updates on WIMTACH’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit https://mailchi.mp/d9a20aac07f0/covid-19-update
WIMTACH proudly recognizes funding to support this work from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).