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College of Arts and Sciences

Seton Hall Co-Hosts Solar Power Platform Hackathon  

A photo of a girl using a tabletTeams of students from Seton Hall and beyond are invited to participate in a Solar Power Platform Hackathon from October 21 – 23, a virtual event sponsored by Microsoft, Seton Hall University and Solar Landscape. Registration is now open and will close on Wednesday, October 19.

The event offers students the opportunity to learn and leverage Microsoft's Power Platform and Azure Cloud services to achieve the hackathon's dual objectives:

  1. Analyze coverage and equitable access to community solar facilities for different demographic communities in New Jersey, and
  2. Propose new community solar development sites to expand the New Jersey Community Solar Program.

The teams, which can include both undergraduate and graduate students, will conduct an initial analysis of the community solar landscape using Microsoft's platforms. They will then complete a prototype application and deliver a presentation explaining their prototype, including a video demonstrating it. Participating in the hackathon will provide students an opportunity to leverage a power-packed combination of coding skills with problem-solving abilities to address the real-world challenge of expanding the community solar market.

The New Jersey Community Solar Program, which is managed by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, expands equitable access to clean energy for residents. It allows both renters and homeowners to subscribe to locally-produced solar energy. The program encourages installing solar facilities, which provide electricity at a lower cost to households than traditional fossil-fuel power plants, to serve communities across New Jersey. It also requires that at least half of the residents who benefit from this more affordable energy are low- and moderate-income households.

The hackathon's goal is to encourage an understanding of the deployment of community solar panel technology for electricity generation in New Jersey. The hackathon is of special relevance for students interested in data science, computer science, environmental issues and public policy.

"The Solar Power Platform Hackathon is a great opportunity for students to help address an important issue of access to clean energy in New Jersey and to learn modern technologies for data science and cloud computing. The students leverage data to develop apps that help policymakers and ordinary citizens in New Jersey with the deployment of and access to solar energy facilities," said Manfred Minimair, professor and director of the M.S. in Data Science program.

"For developing apps, the students use the Microsoft Power Platform, a 'low-code' analytics and cloud computing platform that is accessible to individuals without programming backgrounds. The hackathon will include cross-disciplinary teams of students interested in applications of data science, computer science, public policy and environmental issues," added Minimair.

At the hackathon, a keynote speech will be delivered by Katelyn Gold, Director of Community Engagement at Solar Landscape, the leading provider of community solar nationwide energizing underserved neighborhoods. Gold, who was named a 2021 Top Solar Changemaker by Solar Power World, oversees the company’s job training and renewable energy education initiatives.

"Community solar is making clean energy more equitable nationwide, but there are still millions of homes that don't yet have access to renewable energy," said Gold. "I applaud these students for leveraging technology to expand the use of community solar, which can empower people and energize neighborhoods in so many ways. From creating jobs to lowering emissions to building a safer, healthier world for us all to live in, I believe that community solar represents our future as much as these students do."

Seton Hall faculty hackathon co-organizers from the College of Arts and Sciences include:

  • Shajina Anand, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Manfred Minimair, Ph.D., professor, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Seton Hall faculty public policy data hackathon student mentors from the College of Arts and Sciences include:

  • Matthew Hale, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Political Science and Public Affairs
  • Terence Teo, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Political Science and Public Affairs

Urging students of the value of participation, Anand said, "The hackathon will offer great exposure to students and researchers about how new trends in artificial intelligence and analytics can help to provide insights on expanding access to cleaner energy in New Jersey. This will also be a platform for various students and other participants to explore the multitude of features on the Microsoft Azure cloud."

The hackathon enables students to promote sustainability and address the challenge of climate change. It provides students with an opportunity to change the solar energy landscape with their technical and critical thinking skills.

The event is open to teams of college students, with a maximum of six participants per team. Students from all educational disciplines are encouraged to participate.

The hackathon will start on Friday, October 21 with introductions and Gold's keynote speech in the morning, followed by Power Platform tutorials in the afternoon. The challenge execution and application development will continue over the weekend and conclude on Sunday, October 23. Winners will be announced in November.

For more information and to register, please visit the Solar Power Platform Hackathon website.

Categories: Science and Technology

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