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UOWD Computer Science graduates provide ‘Hope for Children’

Thursday, 27 June, 2013

A team of two graduates from the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) have won a competition to create user-friendly Apps for children with special needs based at the Al Noor Training Centre in Dubai. 

Shawn Frank and Ronak Dave, both UOWD graduates of Computer Science, were the overall winners in two categories of the App development competition, which was part of Samsung’s ‘Hope for Children’ program.

The program, which originated with the donation of around 100 Samsung tablet devices to Al Noor, involved a competition to design Apps that would help the students with their educational and personal development. From over 180 applicants, Shawn and Ronkan were shortlisted among the top twenty developers and won in two out of the five categories - grooming and semantics.

As technology enthusiasts, Shawn and Ronak are in the early stages of setting up their own web development business, which already boasts an impressive client list. Spare moments are few and far between for the new entrepreneurs, but they both felt they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use their passion for technology to make a difference. 

Describing their motivation for the competition, Ronak said, “We are always seeking to learn more about cutting edge technology and being able to put it to good use on something that can help people is a very rewarding experience.”

Their winning App in the grooming category, ‘Groomar’, helps students learn how to clean their teeth, bathe and wash their faces, while their ‘Matchalon’ App, which won in the semantics category, teaches students how to match up items and sequence them together. Having trialled the working prototypes of the two Apps with children at the Centre, the final products are now under development.

Shawn revealed, “We knew we couldn’t assume anything about useability when developing these kinds of Apps, so it was the best feeling when we saw the children interacting with the App and working through the exercises just as we’d envisaged.”

The two entrepreneurs have a history of developing award-winning Apps, with Shawn having won the regional finals of the Microsoft Imagine Cup for three successive years. Both Shawn and Ronak represented the UAE with their ‘Reutilizer’ App – a technology-based waste management system – at the international finals of the 2012 Imagine Cup in Sydney, Australia.

Shawn explained, “We were encouraged by our professors at UOWD to enter the Imagine Cup and they mentored and supported us the whole way. Ultimately the competition was a real turning point for us. It made us curious, sparked new and challenging ideas, encouraged us not to hold back, and helped us to develop concepts that we’d previously only been able to dream about.”

On graduating from UOWD, both Shawn and Ronak went straight into IT positions with local companies and have since established their own development business, ‘MindHyve’, which is backed by a prominent international brand executive based in Dubai. While they hold high ambitions for the enterprise, and have already succeeded in making their mark in the sector, the pair also remain committed to using technology to make a difference.

Shawn concluded, “We spend hours and hours over the weekends coming up with ideas and talking over designs. In reality only a fraction will get to the next stage of development, but if even just one child’s life is positively affected by something we do, then that is a great motivation to carry on.”

To read more about Shawn and Ronak's success, read the recent article in The National newspaper. 

Homepage Image Credit: Jeffrey E. Biteng, Photographer, The National

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