Cloud-Jam 2020 Forecast: Cloudy Yet Bright

  • Photo credit: gorodenkoff

To solve sustainability challenges in Los Angeles, CSUN students will be presented the opportunity to innovate in the cloud.

Since 2016, CSUN’s Division of Information Technology has hosted an annual student competition, giving students across all disciplines a chance at solving looming societal problems through personal creativity and innovation while using the latest technologies.

In recent years the IT jams have used different technologies including apps (App-Jam), virtual and augmented reality (VAR-Jam), and artificial intelligence (AI-Jam) to address issues within topics that have included accessibility, student life and student finance.

This year’s annual competition will be CSUN 2020 Cloud-Jam. Cloud-Jam’s focus for 2020 is sustainability and the incorporation of cloud technology, and its potential capabilities for solving problems related to sustainability in the Los Angeles area.

Cloud-Jam is open to students of all majors. Interested students will have a chance to find and pair with teammates at the event kickoff and during the first couple of weeks of the competition. Teams can include up to five members.

“We are excited at the possibilities that Cloud-Jam can present to our students, including exposure to an array of emerging cloud technology services and tools to power pioneering and innovative ideas,” said Ranjit Philip, interim vice president for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer.

The winners will have an opportunity to further their projects with CSUN’s I-Corps, a chance at a cash prize, along with other prizes.

So, what is cloud technology?

Cloud technology is the use of remote computers to store data and use related computing services. By connecting to remote computers via the internet, users have access to greater storage capacity and computer horsepower, increasing their work capabilities.

“Everyone, whether they’re aware or not, has used cloud technology in some form or fashion,” said Kyle Shaver, interim director of enterprise application development for CSUN IT. “One of the examples of cloud computing that everybody has used, and I know that everybody’s used, is email. So, the information is not stored on your local computer, it’s stored on another computer, and you interact with it over the internet.”

Other familiar programs like Dropbox, Google Drive and Apple iCloud are all services that use cloud technology to function.

Cloud-Jam competitors will use cloud technology to address sustainability issues. Shaver pointed to three key foundational ideas of sustainability — economic, environmental and social sustainability — each of which contributes to the promotion of sustainability in growing metropolitan areas like Los Angeles.

“Because we’re focusing on the L.A. area, we’re hoping that challenge can resonate with students,” Shaver said. “And they can find something that’s important to them or something that they connect with that has to do with sustainability, and that they’ll use cloud technologies to find a way to address that issue or highlight a particular topic or get people involved in certain new ways.”

The competition will kickstart with an event from 2-4 p.m. on March 4 in the CSUN Library Ferman Presentation Room. Top cloud companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are also looking to see what CSUN student competitors have to offer, as they will be in attendance at the kickoff.

Cloud-Jam is open to all students, regardless of major.

Teams can benefit from the perspectives of all types of degrees, and students from other disciplines can benefit from working toward sustainability goals, Shaver said. For example, business majors will want to make sure that their businesses and practices are sustainable, as it makes good business sense. Chemists have often found new and innovative uses for materials that may be being wasted due to a lack of recycling and/or poor mining practices. English majors can contribute philosophical perspectives that guide technologies in ways that are ethical and have the most positive impact on the world.

“Modern technology does not wait to progress, and being experienced with common aspects of new tools like cloud tech can become an invaluable skill for any student,” Shaver said.

“The reason why we’re here is for students,” Shaver said. “It’s incredibly important to make sure that anybody can learn how to use these technologies, cloud technologies are only going to become more prevalent. You know, it’s not just going to be programmers or your highly technical people who are going to be working with cloud [technology].”

Over the course of the month, students will work on projects with guidance from IT. Cloud-Jam will be run through a Canvas course and checkpoints will be set up along the way to ensure that students are progressing towards the common goal of addressing sustainability in Los Angeles.

Cloud-Jam will round-out its competition on April 6, culminating in a student showcase, where all projects will be on display.

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