In collaboration with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Academy, the computer information systems (CIS) program at the College of Technology is the first university program to host an AWS team competition nationwide. Hosted annually during the spring semester, the cloudathon@UH competition gives students the opportunity to use classroom knowledge in solving current industry-level problems.
Since 2019, the event has grown to host almost 100 attendees and 200 total active participants. Jose C. Martinez, Ph.D., has worked alongside AWS, staff, volunteers, industry judges and a team of AWS Academy representatives to develop the only collegiate-level competition of its kind in the Houston area.
“I am very ambitious in this,” said Martinez. “The vision of this competition, literally to be the best university-based, cloud-based competition in the whole country.”
Students must solve advanced application problems developed by AWS industry experts alongside Martinez.
The curriculum that Martinez and other faculty integrate into their CIS courses serve as the foundation for these problems and directly correlate with the AWS Academy curriculum taught to industry professionals worldwide.
Yeslyn Casasola, an event volunteer and recent graduate who participated in the first-ever competition, spoke about the growth she has seen since first attending. Casasola credited her experience at the event with helping her development as a young professional.
“Honestly, it prepared me for the internship that I had with Bechtel last summer,” said Casasola. “But, I mean, the credit goes to all the professors. Professors like Mr. Martinez, I’ve only met one. And he always encourages all of us…to just keep trying.”
While the main goals of the competition are to give students opportunities to network, work on cloud-based teams, and potentially find jobs, Martinez’s mission for impacting students is broader.
“I’ve worked in the industry for quite a good number of years…never have I worked with someone from UH,” said Martinez. “We just need to put UH students in these types of jobs. Building that community out there at this level; ... I want them to have the confidence that they can go and do these things.”
This year’s winning team consisted of students Basim Siddiqui, Tianhao Shao, Aiyna Dhawan, Van Phan and Chris Kiel. They attended workshops and had met almost weekly since March in preparation for the event, stepping up to the challenge of implementing “a month’s worth” of curriculum and learning into hours of work at the event.
“Overall, I think the experience was pretty fun,” said Siddiqui.
Martinez, his staff and the AWS team will continue expanding the competition in the upcoming school year as they look to invite 34 other universities ranging across Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Alabama.