Students win national hackathon competition 

a photo of Grand Valley's hackathon event.
Chris Schertenlieb and Norman Cunningham also participated in Grand Valley's first Hackathon in April.
Image Credit: Courtesy

The Grand Valley students who won Blackboard’s Hackathon 2.0 Competition sought to solve a problem many students experience: quickly navigating their class syllabus. 

Computing majors Chris Schertenlieb and Norman Cunningham competed against 121 registered participants during the national programming contest. Entries were judged by a panel of experts from Amazon and Blackboard and winners were announced at the Blackboard World Conference in July in Orlando. 

Participants were asked to solve a problem in education using artificial intelligence. The Grand Valley duo developed Syllabot, a chatbot that helps students sort through the sometimes tedious task of finding information in a syllabus. 

"It can often be a time-consuming task for students, as well as for instructors who have to repeatedly answer the same questions," said Schertenlieb. 

The tool is currently configured to answer three common questions: "What time is my course?", "Where is my course?", and "Where is my professor's office?"

Szymon Machajewski, an affiliate instructor in the School of Computing and Information Systems, served as the team's faculty mentor. He said Schertenlieb and Cunningham learned necessary coding skills during the winter semester and competed in Grand Valley's first Hackathon competition in April.

Staff members on Grand Valley's eLearning and Emerging Technologies team were also recognized at the Blackboard World Conference in Orlando. The team received the Blackboard Catalyst Award, which honors those who use Blackboard programs to support and enhance their faculty and staff’s training and professional development. Read more here.