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Department of Computer Science and Technology

The successful Computer Science students, pictured left to right: Marc Harvey-Hill, Yash Shah, Nicole Choong and Matthew Elliot

Congratulations to first-year undergraduates Marc Harvey-Hill, Yash Shah, Nicole Choong and Matthew Elliot who teamed up to take part in a Hackathon on 'Embracing Neurodiversity' – and won.

The four (who are all Computer Science students at Gonville & Caius College) joined forces for the 24-hour virtual hackathon. Organised earlier this spring by AstraZeneca and partners at Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, Intel and ComputaCenter, it was aimed at bringing people together to spread the visibility of neurodiversity and test their problem-solving skills.

"We wanted some experience of what it’s like to take part in competitive programming - and more importantly, what we created, we had the opportunity to help other people."

Yash Shah

The task was to try to build solutions to help people with neurodiversity navigate their daily challenges. Our four undergraduates used Minecraft to help an executive with dyslexia who was having trouble locating files on her computer because she had misspelled the computer file names. The group realised they could help by taking advantage of the strength of her visual memory system. 

Yash Shah says: "People with dyslexia have trouble with the shape of words. But we learnt that they have a really good 3D visual system." Marc Harvey-Hill adds: "So we had the idea, instead of using a normal file browser, to implement a file browser that works in 3D so you can walk around a physical space to find your files."

Yash says: "Our goal was to create a visual file management system. We came up with the idea of using Minecraft as a proof-of-concept to see how it worked. We created a Minecraft mod, where you could import files from your computer as blocks inside of Minecraft, and you could place these blocks anywhere you want.

"The idea is now where you put the file, you’ve got a 3D map around you – it’s using a different part of your brain to remember this information. Instead of thinking 'Oh, I put my file in this folder, which is inside another folder', you can now remember 'Oh, I put my file next to this tree or village well'."

It was the first time the four students had worked together in a Hackathon."It was really surprising and it was incredibly exciting to have won our first Hackathon together. We were not expecting to win it," Yash adds.

"We did it because we wanted some experience of what it’s like to take part in competitive programming. Even more importantly, we just liked the idea. What we created, we had the opportunity to help other people."

The project is open source and the team are hoping that it will be developed and that they can play a role in the development.

  • This story first appeared on the Gonville & Caius College website. Many thanks to them for allowing us to reproduce it here.


Published by Rachel Gardner on Tuesday 25th May 2021