• This weekend, WPI hosts BRASATech, the inaugural science- and technology-based collegiate conference of Brazilian Student Associations across the country. BRASATech kicks off tonight (Friday, Oct. 31) with a hackathon at 7 p.m. and continues throughout Saturday with a conference featuring several speakers offering perspectives from across disciplines—including industry, entrepreneurship, and even academics.
BRASATech offers students the chance to collaborate in teams and develop solutions to real-world problems in Brazil. Vying for the $2,000 top prize, teams will be issued a challenge this evening and have 24 hours to plan, propose, and present a solution.
“I love that students are pooling together experts from inside and outside academia to discuss questions of central interest to them,” says Marcelo Gleiser, a professor in Dartmouth’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, who will speak at the conference and hold a book signing of his latest work, The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning. “This takes a lot of initiative and time, and they are to be commended for it. In the particular instance of BRASATech, I am very proud that these are Brazilian students who are clearly making the most of their experience here in the U.S.”
The hackathon, a 24-hour marathon of problem solving, gives teams of two-to-four students one day to work on a problem to be announced at the start of the event. Teams will design and implement a software application in a project that includes both a feasibility report and a business plan. In a hackathon, programming skills are necessary to create the application, but students of all majors and backgrounds are welcome (as long as half of the team members have programming backgrounds).
The conference includes speakers from many backgrounds, including Thiago Alvarez, CEO of GuiaBolso, the leading personal finance management application in Brazil, and Rodrigo Leão, founder and CEO of Trade Force, a workforce automation company in Brazil. At the end of the hackathon, teams will get to pitch their ideas before a panel of executives from companies with Brazilian interests including Heinz, Ambev, Fundação Estudar, and BTG Pactual.
Judges of the team projects will especially focus on four areas: social impact, problem solved, completeness, and business value. For instance, will the presented solution have social significance in Brazil? Does the solution solve the problem in an original manner? Is the problem solved completely and in a manner that reflects high-quality work? And does the proposed solution have money-saving and opportunity creating value to businesses?
Gleiser says the event builds community. “To be part of an event with many people in the same situation brings everyone together, allowing for new partnerships and friendships,” he says. “I’m also sure that students will be inspired by the speakers and will get a new understanding of how networking and entrepreneurship are essential skills in the new century—and, from my talk, a bit on the amazing picture of the universe that emerges from modern science and the challenges ahead.”