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Jabil Circuit is Sponsoring a Hackathon Focusing on Chatbots at USF’s Muma College of Business on Jan. 14.

By Keith Morelli

TAMPA (Dec. 16, 2016) -- With the national narrative focusing on the computer hacking of political campaigns, you might raise an eyebrow to find out USF is hosting a hackathon in January.

But it's not that kind of hackathon. This actually is designed to benefit technology, manufacturing and business, not to tear it apart.

"Hackathons provide a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology," according to the Hackathons-Anonymous website. "People with technical backgrounds come together, form teams around a problem or idea and collaboratively code a unique solution from scratch — these generally take shape in the form of websites, mobile apps and robots."

Jabil Circuit, a U.S.-based global manufacturing services company headquartered in St. Petersburg, will sponsor the hackathon along with the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business on Jan. 14. The competition is expected to last from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. and take place in the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications (CIS Building).

The event, which will pit teams of USF students against each other, emphasizes the role of IT in manufacturing, Jabil says. The company is partnering with USF in challenging students to design and create sustainable software that breaks barriers in technology and makes global impacts.

The competition will consists of six teams of four students each with an option of adding a Jabil employee who will act as a potential coach. There is no registration fee for competitors.

Judges will include selected technology leaders, USF and Jabil representatives to provide a mix of educational and manufacturing workplace perspectives.

"We are very thankful to Jabil for sponsoring this competition at the Muma College of Business at the University of South Florida," said Manish Agrawal, chair of the Information Systems Decision Sciences, which is hosting the event. "Having Jabil come to USF with this event is an indication of what outside corporations and businesses feel about the quality of our programs and students.

"This competition will bring out the best innovators, designers and problem solvers the Information Systems Decision Sciences has to offer," he said. "We are proud and honored to be a part of this event."

Competitors must be USF students who are at least 18 years old and they must provide their own equipment and form their own teams. All demos must be submitted within the time parameters and participants will own all intellectual property for their work completed at the hackathon.

"The world of manufacturing is changing everyday with the technology driving and supporting innovation to unfold a world of opportunities and leading to more profitable and competitive products," said Madhavi Othuluru, senior manager with Jabil and director of the event, which is a first for Jabil and USF.

"At Jabil we have been making leaps in the areas of additive manufacturing, Internet of Things, disruptive technologies and digital manufacturing," Othuluru said. "Please come and join us for a unique opportunity to work with Jabil engineers and explore the area of chatbots and explore the cool world of industrial manufacturing."

Chatbots act as a knowledge base for operators on the manufacturing floor and are like intelligent assistants, Jabil said in an announcement of the event, and this competition is an avenue to examine the various possibilities of the emerging technology.

"There has been an increasing focus on chatbots within the tech community," the announcement said. "Chatbots have been integrated into Facebook messenger, Twitter feeds etc. The goal of this hackathon is to explore chatbots' usage in the world of manufacturing."

Judges will rate the competitors' creativity and innovation, technical capabilities, practical applications and presentations and each member of the winning team will receive a $250 gift card.