Academia-industry collaboration leads to start-up success

08 March 2017
BNZ Start-Up finalists, DawnDev
(Clockwise, from bottom-left) Chanjun Park, Ruoyi Cai, Hojun Joo, Nikhil Prasad, Farida El Zanty, Elizabeth Orchard, Chahat Chawla, and Christina Eir.

The Faculty of Engineering takes pride in our ability to apply our students’ learnings to the real world, as reflected in a recent achievement in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – an industry-proposed project in the Agile software development course has recently experienced major success in the BNZ Start-Up Awards.   

Developed by final year Software Engineering students in the course, the project, proposed by an industry partner, GetSkills, has been made one of six finalists of the Awards, which has seen more entries this year than they have previously. Their software application, CLVR, analyses behavioral interviews using artificial intelligence.

CLVR possesses several proposed uses – while its main aim is to capture quantifiable answers via simple survey methodologies, its focus on emotional feedback makes it viable for self-care and the recruitment industry, or even college admissions. Qualitative data – such as emotions – are thus presented in data that is easy to interpret, which can contribute to more thorough decision-making processes.                              

The collaborative relationship was established by Dr Rashina Hoda when she reached out to GetSkills, an initiative aimed at collaborating with local industry to provide students with real-world experience in the IT market. Their CEO, Yadwinder Sharma, took the opportunity to explore his interests in Artificial Intelligence API and technologies with a student team in the course, and the software application was produced within a semester.

Following Agile software development practices, the student team, ‘DawnDev’ – Chahat Chawla, Chanjun Park, Christina Eir, Elizabeth Orchard, Farida El Zanty, Hojun Joo, Nikhil Prasad and Ruoyi Cai – presented the live product increments to their industry collaborators every week, demonstrating its features. These include audio recordings, speech analysis and results generation in less than a minute. CLVR responds to its user by providing answer transcripts, audio, and an emotional and personality analysis.

In addition to winning the Best Project Award in their Agile course, DawnDev’s GetSkills mentors noted the application’s potential and chose to submit it to the BNZ StartUp awards, which was featured recently at Webstock.

Some other projects from the 2014 and 2015 Agile course cohort are currently running in live environments online, with extended R&D collaborations with the Auckland District Health Boards. Dr Hoda is now exploring more research collaboration opportunities with them.

She launched her idea of a hands-on industry-linked course in 2013 with 29 students and one industry partner. What she initially was uncertain of is now “one of the most rewarding experiences for me” – a sentiment that is repeated by both students and industry collaborators. In the last four years, 180 students have successfully delivered 26 software projects to industry partners such as GetSkills, Deloitte, Orion Health, Fiserv, Datacom, Assuirty, Comvita, Cantovation, MYOB and the National Institute of Health Innovations.

Dr Hoda, awarded the Faculty of Engineering Teaching Excellence Award (early career) in 2016, believes that we should seek more collaborations with industry as it opens up doors for everyone. She adds, “I am thankful for the culture in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering that constantlty encourages us to be bold, and explore new teaching innovations and delivery models”.