Adler Planetarium

Inspiring Youth to Participate in STEM

I joined Teza Technologies in 2012 with a background in computer science. Since my first computer at age five, I’ve had a passion for technology as a platform to solve complex problems. I enjoy discussing new and exciting ideas, collaborating with others, and tackling big challenges. 

So, when I learned that the Adler Planetarium was seeking STEM professionals to volunteer as judges at Civic Hack Day – an event sponsored by Teza, as a part of our wider philanthropic effort – I jumped at the opportunity. 

Vegim Begolli (L) with two Teza employees.

Vegim Begolli (L) with two Teza employees.

While I was in college, I worked with a team to build a social trading platform. It took a lot of time and effort to develop and design the concept, nurture it through implementation and finally go live. I understand the challenges – especially if these ideas are expanded and continue to be worked on – that that these Civic Hackers faced on May 30 – June 1, and will experience looking ahead.

To say that I was in good company on Civic Hack Day is an understatement. Teza’s CEO Dr. Misha Malyshev kicked off the hacking events with inspiring remarks. He said the ideas the teams came up with at Civic Hack Day might have a profoundly positive impact on the city or even the world! I was also impressed with the insights shared by my fellow judge who has been involved with the Adler for many years, and had just completed his freshman year of college.

From my experience, Civic Hack Day really strived to inspire people to think and solve problems. All of the ideas focused on one central theme:  a platform to help people access information. I think that if more people came up with concepts like these and brought them to fruition, our world would gain high quality platforms to serve those who need it most.

One intriguing initiative at Civic Hack Day was providing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) homeless youth with a bed to sleep in. This was the crowd favorite and such a great idea. The one downside I saw with this, which I hope we can work to solve in the future (perhaps at another hack event), is how do homeless LGBT individuals actually become aware of the existence of a website that is there for them to take advantage of? 

Additionally, I was encouraged to see the energy from the youth participants. There was a concept for a search engine to give results ONLY on CPS rules. One of the members on the team was a high school student and I thought this was a great initiative to begin informing other students of the rules, and possibly to simplify them.

It was extremely difficult to select only one winner. The time, effort, and thought that went in to every project made each one overwhelmingly exciting – not only for me, but you could feel it from the presenters. Everyone was a winner in my book.

I would volunteer as a hack judge again anytime. Although next time I would participate as a hacker, because I would love to work with these passionate people to bring something fun and thrilling to life. 
Written by Vegim Begolli, Civic Hack Day 2014 guest judge and Systems Engineer at Teza Technologies. Teza is a science and technology-driven global quantitative trading business based in Chicago. The company was founded by Dr. Misha Malyshev in 2009.

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