Symptai Consulting Sponsors the 2019 Calico Challenge

Santa Clara, California: April 29, 2019 – Symptai Consulting Ltd announced its USD1500 sponsorship of the Palisadoes Foundation’s fourth annual Calico Challenge. This marks the conclusion of a successful collaboration between Symptai, the Jamaica Computing Society, the Palisadoes Foundation, the UWI Computing Society and the University of Technology IEEE Student Branch.

The Calico Challenge is a summer work study program for computer science students in Jamaica. Each selected student works on enhancing open source software used internationally under the guidance of a Jamaican mentor. Students receive a USD1500 stipend for their participation which is incrementally paid upon the achievement of specified milestones. Calico is also a feeder program for the similar Google Summer of Code.

“We welcome Symptai’s support of Calico in our common goal of developing a stronger nation through the empowerment of the future Jamaican technical workforce.” said Peter Harrison, President of the Palisadoes Foundation, “The endorsement clearly illustrates how Jamaicans around the world can collaborate in outreach activities to make an impact in not just in education but in engineering too.”

More information can be found on the Palisadoes Foundation website: http://www.palisadoes.org

About the Calico Challenge
Calico was conceived by The Palisadoes Foundation in conjunction with the Jamaica Diaspora Technology Task Force. There has been close technical collaboration between the Foundation; the University of the West Indies (UWI) Department of Computing, Mona; the UWI Computing Society; and the University of Technology IEEE Students Branch to identify open source projects, student sub-projects and mentors.

About Symptai Consulting
Founded in 1998, Symptai Consulting Ltd is an IT Advisory and Assurance Company that is tremendously experienced in delivering advisory and assurance services.

Symptai has offices in Kingston, Jamaica, and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. Symptai has contributed greatly to improving the perception of auditors and control professionals in the Caribbean. This has resulted in auditors with increased efficiency and effectiveness through the introduction of new data analysis techniques and concepts, and automating their control functions.

Symptai possess an enviable track record; performing highly technical information systems audits for clients over the past eighteen (18) years. Symptai also provides mentoring to government ministries and agencies. For years the company has delivered software and lecturers to dominant universities in Jamaica.

About the Palisadoes Foundation
The California based Palisadoes Foundation aims to provide new avenues to promote Jamaica’s technology businesses and talent using a series of programs aimed at creating increased awareness of the island’s abilities in the global marketplace.

About the University of Technology IEEE Student Branch
Like the IEEE, the branch’s core purpose is to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. It is the first IEEE student branch to be registered in Jamaica and meets regularly to develop the young minds that will create a better Jamaica.

About the UWI Computing Society
The vision for this society is to become a launching pad for the development and exposure of the computing students of the University of the West Indies, with particular focus on undergraduate students. This Society is also envisioned to be a medium by which the university population and the wider society may become more computer literate as well as educated in the efficient use of ICT in the industry and the wider society.

About the Jamaica Diaspora Technology Task Force
The Jamaica Diaspora Technology Task Force is a group of expatriate Jamaicans interested in assisting in the continued development of new and existing technologies in Jamaica. It is a member of the Jamaica Diaspora Movement

Matthew Patterson – 2019 Calico Challenge Participant

Today we feature Matthew Patterson one of our 2019 Calico Challenge participants.

My name is Matthew Andrew Oswald Patterson. I attended St. George’s College and I am now pursuing a degree in Computer Science at the University of The West Indies (UWI) Mona. I applied to the Calico program so that I can receive guidance as to how to approach and contribute to open source projects. Time didn’t allow me to do it before. Whether this is an excuse or not, throwing myself in the deep end or doing it alone, without mentorship were not grand ideas to me. Thus, Calico presented the perfect opportunity to capitalize this aspiration.

I am predominantly interested in animation, literature, storytelling and all strains of technology. Ultimately, I would like to become a game developer, or a major contributor to new game releases, as well as, an author. I am a very dynamic and unstructured person; I am still amazed that I have reached this far. However, my pride and dreams continue to propel me further in the field of Computer Science, along with the motivations of my loved ones. The opportunity to learn new things, refine and expand my skillset is amazingly fun and invaluable, especially when combined with the opportunity to meet and network with new people, who are doing great things. I would wish such a blessing for even my worst enemy. What is competition when one side is incompetent?

Ranil Wallace – 2019 Calico Challenge Participant

Today we feature Ranil Wallace one of our 2019 Calico Challenge participants.

My name is Ranil Wallace, a second year student at the University of Technology, Jamaica, pursuing my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. One of my favourite things to do is problem solving. It is something that I am good at, which is why I enjoy programming so much. I have experience in Javascript, and it’s frameworks such as React JS, React Native and Angular. I also have experience in NoSQL databases such as mongoDB, as well as the Javascript runtime environment NodeJS. Recently, I have been venturing into user-interface design. I look forward to Calico, as it will allow me to gain more experience in the open-source community, as well as improve my teamwork skills and problem solving abilities.

Dominc Mills – 2019 Calico Challenge Participant

Today we feature Dominic Mills one of our 2019 Calico Challenge participants.

Dominic is a burgeoning mathematician and science enthusiast that has a vested interest in developing cost-effective educational tools to enhance science education and communication in the developing world. He has a BSc. from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, a postgraduate diploma from the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical physics and is currently pursing an M.Phil from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, in Kingston, Jamaica. He is a twice selected Leader of Tomorrow of the St. Gallen Symposium as well as the first Jamaican selected for the CERN Summer Student Programme. He is also an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society and has participated in many international programmes aimed at nurturing young scientists and thought leaders, such as the Think Summit Global Solutions, Heidelberg Laureate Forum and, most recently, the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

Announcing the 2019 Calico Challenge Awardees

Santa Clara, California: April 22, 2019: The Palisadoes Foundation today announced the 6 student awardees to participate in the fourth annual Calico Challenge.

The Calico Challenge is a summer work study program for computer science students in Jamaica. Each selected student works on enhancing open source software used internationally under the guidance of a Jamaican mentor. Students receive a US$500 stipend for their participation which is incrementally paid upon the achievement of specified milestones. Calico is also a feeder program for the similar Google Summer of Code.

Calico was conceived by The Palisadoes Foundation in conjunction with the Jamaica Diaspora Technology Task Force. Since its inception there has been close technical collaboration between the Foundation; the computing departments of Jamaica’s five universities, and various student clubs.

The Calico Challenge students will be working on adding software features to:

  • The insite Project Suite: Insite can track various types of data that vary over time. This includes, but is not limited to agricultural prices, computer performance and environmental conditions. The suite includes the insite web interface, system-server which stores the data, scrappi for data collection and the insite-api which allows the data to be retrieved by other computer programs over the internet.
  • Project Quito: Member management software for use by clubs, religious institutions and more
  • WordPress: A popular application for easily creating websites. This project is administered by WordPress in an informal partnership with the Palisadoes Foundation.

This year’s Calico Challenge awardees are:

  • Tevon Davis – insite
  • Matthew Patterson – insite-api
  • Nathan Downer – Quito
  • Phillip Llewellyn – Quito
  • Dimitri Johnson – Quito
  • Dominic Mills – Scrappi
  • Ranil Wallace – system-server
  • Rachelle Trottman – WordPress

“Our fourth anniversary is an important milestone in Jamaica’s growing international IT community role”, said Peter Harrison, President of the Palisadoes Foundation, “The collaboration of so many diverse stakeholders, including academia, students, and businesses in both Jamaica and overseas is truly remarkable in getting us this far. I look forward to the future.”

About the Calico Challenge
Calico was conceived by The Palisadoes Foundation in conjunction with the Jamaica Diaspora Technology Task Force. There has been close technical collaboration between the Foundation; the University of the West Indies (UWI) Department of Computing, Mona; the UWI Computing Society; and the University of Technology IEEE Students Branch to identify open source projects, student sub-projects and mentors.

About the Palisadoes Foundation
The California-based Palisadoes Foundation aims to provide new avenues of promoting Jamaica’s technology businesses and talent by using a series of programs which create increased awareness of the island’s abilities in the global marketplace.

The 2018 Calico Challenge Report

In keeping with our policy of transparency we have made the 2018 Calico Challenge Review is available for download here. It was our third year of running the event and much was learned.

  • Sponsorships rose which allowed us to have a modest reserve fund in the event of unforeseen events that could impact donations.
  • Our 2018 UTech student volunteers graduated and we successfully recruited new volunteers from UWI and UTech. This greatly helps with the continuity of our Calico Challenge outreach work.
  • We hired a social media firm to handle our online promotions, but the results were disappointing. The general interest technology stories posted and updates on our activities didn’t receive the expected levels of engagement. This initiative was funded by contributions by members of the Board of Directors. We have since used our volunteers to update our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages on a regular basis. Postings include reminders about the Calico Challenge, more regional Caribbean technology content and interesting links learned from various Jamaican technology WhatsApp groups.
  • Students engagement through technology clubs wasn’t as robust as in the past which, in addition to the low social media engagement, contributed to a lower number of applications and overall applicant quality. We have since created a WhatsApp group with university student club leaders across the island through which we announced our 2019 activities. This lead to a record number of 2019 applicants and noticeably better responses.
  • The general uncertainty of both global and Jamaican economic growth is a continued risk to our donation stream. We have begun work on finding ways to provide revenue generating opportunities to sponsor our outreach by providing services to other non-profit organizations. This was the inspiration of the 2019 Calico Challenge’s Quito project which aims to provide an open source cloud membership management service for clubs and religious institutions.

We feel that 2018 was a turning point for the Calico Challenge, in which new approaches to our challenges were identified and successfully applied in the first half of 2019. The Palisadoes Foundation looks forward to further successes this year.

 

Meet Volunteer Gabrielle Higgins

A big welcome to Gabrielle Higgins, our latest volunteer!

My name is Gabrielle Higgins. I am a second year student at UWI, Mona pursuing a BSc in Computer Science. Originally my plan had been to major in Biochemistry and minor in either Computer Science, but the more I practiced programming the more I fell in love with it. Last semester I was very conflicted about whether I would drop Biochemistry or not because doing two programs did not give me enough flexibility to learn as much as I would like to. In the end I chose Computer Science over Biochemistry and I don’t regret doing that.

I really appreciate organizations like The Palisadoes Foundation because they drive the development of the country. Palisadoes has done very well in providing opportunities to university students. It serves as a source of inspiration even to students who do not apply or get through. The message is simple but powerful. “Open source software is essential.” To go through such lengths to encourage students to develop open source software communicates how important the Foundation believes it to be. I strongly agree with them. No doubt, every software developer has used open source software at some point in their journey. Looking forward, I’m excited to be a part of the team that helps to build a Caribbean presence in the Open Source community.

We’ll keep you all posted about her activities and more.

Project Quito

Quito is a new project for the 2019 Calico Challenge. It is a modular open source project to manage the member operations of religious institutions, not necessarily limited to churches.

The project aims to provide churches with better demographic data of their congregations, improved facilities management, easier recall of volunteer skills, and more. There are many commercially available software services for churches, but we have found no actively updated “free to use” open source software. There is also an opportunity to tailor the project’s software to operate better in the Caribbean context where most users are connected to the Internet through their phones.

This Palisadoes Foundation project is in keeping with our goal of promoting technology adoption in Jamaica, and is aimed at helping fellow charitable organizations contribute more fully to society.

Core features to be developed include:

  1. Membership management
  2. Donation management
  3. Groups management
  4. Event registrations
  5. Recurring meetings
  6. Facilities registrations
  7. Volunteer and children checkins
  8. Social media integrations
  9. Service planning and scheduling

It will be written in the Python programming language that is taught at most university level undergraduate programs in Jamaica. We are working on supporting requirements and design documentation for students to use. You can view the latest updates on our Palisadoes Foundation GitHub account. Code will start to be added as soon as Challenge kicks off. Contact the project mentor David Bain at Alteroo for details.

If you are a student and are interested in working on this project then apply to the 2019 Calico Challenge. Applications close on Tuesday March 26, 2019. Details can be found on the Calico Challenge web page.

 

The Calico Challenge expands in 2019

The RealDecoy team at the UTech IEEE student branch club meeting where the Calico Challenge was discussed.

We’ve started the New Year with great news! In January we visited both the UTech and UWI student computing clubs in which staff from RealDecoy discussed the key skills software developers will need to be successful in their careers. The need to be up to date and curious about how the latest technologies work was very clearly highlighted.  Che’-Andre Gordon from RealDecoy spoke about the need for students to be visible on professional social media sites like LinkedIn to promote resume related information, and GitHub to showcase working software students have written.

During the trip we also visited the Caribbean Maritime Institute, Northern Caribbean University, the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean and the Vector Technology Institute. This triples the number of institutions in Jamaica that have been introduced to the Palisadoes Foundation and the Calico Challenge.

Our 2019 programming projects include core data collection applications, now in their fourth year of development, and a new project named “Quito” aimed at making the member management of churches and other religious institutions easier.

UTech also received a second shipment of Dell computer hardware from us to be used to support student labs. We are grateful to our benefactors who so graciously donated this equipment to our work in Jamaica.

You may have also noticed that our social media posts have become more regular to provide interesting regional news on ICT that you normally won’t find on major technology or general news websites. This has strengthened our connection with those interested in our work.

We also have two new volunteers helping us in Jamaica this year. Shanell Hopkins and Gabrielle Higgins. We’ll have more updates about them soon.

This is the Calico Challenge’s fourth year. We look forward to many more!

We’re Participating in GivingTuesday 2018

 

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

There are many ways to get involved. The Palisadoes Foundation will be listed on your company’s donation portal and you can also visit our donation page to help.