My experience presenting my personal project at the 2017 CUSEC DemoCamp
Last Wednesday night I arrived in Montreal, Quebec for the 16th annual Canadian University Software Engineering Conference, or CUSEC. Over the course of the three days, I listened to a number of compelling and enlightening talks, on the ins and outs of vector rasterization, and the social responsibilities we have as software developers.
Overall, the conference is always a blast. It was my second time in attendance, and my second time making an appearance in the DemoCamp presentations. DemoCamp at CUSEC is a competition and showcase of the work students' are accomplishing and exploring in their free time. Each student or team is given 5 minutes to present their project to the judges and audience, and another 5 minutes to field questions. My favourite aspect, however, is that there are no slides allowed. Each team presents only the actual product they've been developing
As it was my second time presenting, I'll give you the run down of what happened two years ago, when I presented for DemoCamp at CUSEC 2015. A week before the conference began in January, I was stressing over my first CO-OP term which would be upcoming that summer. I had little in the way of actual experience, and my résumé resembled that of every other 2nd year student at the University of Ottawa, describing the courses I had taken up until that point and little else otherwise. Then, I discovered DemoCamp. I didn't have anything to present, but I had had an idea kicking around in the back of my mind for a few months -- an app for 5 pin bowlers to track their games and analyse where they could be improving their skills. So, on a whim, I decided I would sign up for CUSEC, with a week to go and next to no preparation put towards beginning the development of my app. A week later, I had a working prototype, the image you see below. It was dirty, there was no consideration for design, but it worked! And not only that, it was actually what put me over the top in the eyes of the recruiter at my first CO-OP term that summer, with ADGA.
In the months following that presentation, I would go on to complete my bowling app, and release it in the Play Store, under the name 5 Pin Bowling Companion. During that time, it underwent two complete rewrites and a full redesign effort. I published my app, posted a celebratory status on Facebook, and over the next year and a half, it would be downloaded by over 7,000 people. During that time, I would continue to tweak and release new versions of the app. Actually, it's still in development, I still regularly get bug reports and emails of praise, and I'm planning a long overdue release in the coming weeks. Currently the app earns me (very) little extra cash through AdMob revenue, and sees about 1,000 active users a month. They're using the newest version of the app you see below.
Then, it was time for CUSEC once more. Well, huh, I thought, 1,000 active users isn't half bad, is it? Maybe the attendees of CUSEC are in need of an update? Sure, why not! So, with ticket in hand, I applied to present at the CUSEC DemoCamp and prepared a short recap of my last CUSEC demo and what had changed since.
Being able to speak in front of an audience is a skill some people have that I admire dearly. Not to say that I'm bad at it, I actually thought my demo was very strong. But the way some can capture an audience and get them invested in their idea with just five minutes astounds me, and some of the presentations were brilliant. My favourite (and the favourite of the judges) was a demo on BuddyHaul, the self-proclaimed "Uber for moving," and self-deprecatingly noted as a less than unique idea. The presenter made us all laugh again and again as he showed off what was actually a really solid execution of a cool idea.
Whenever opportunities like CUSEC's DemoCamp come around, I always try to get a spot. Knowing how to speak to an audience can help you in so many ways, regardless of your career. Public speaking skills can help get investors interested in your product, or show an interviewer you're comfortable speaking in front of others. So, when I'm presented with a chance to speak to about 100 students and sponsors, I can't turn it down.
Overall, the event went smoothly. There were ten presentations in all, with five prizes given out by the judges for best presentation, most technically challenging, most unique, best UI/UX and an overall winner. Unfortunately, I didn't claim any of the prizes, but those that did win were not misplaced. Every presenter performed excellently, and every project looked crisp, challenging, and the result of a lot of hard work.