Women sweep the board at Scottish software engineering awards

The winners of the 2017 Young Software Engineer of the Year awards. From left,  Orisa Ngampakdeepanich, Gala Malbasic, Irina Camilleri and Amy Parent
The winners of the 2017 Young Software Engineer of the Year awards. From left, Orisa Ngampakdeepanich, Gala Malbasic, Irina Camilleri and Amy Parent
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Women have swept the board at the country’s most prestigious software engineering awards, which recognise outstanding technical talent among undergraduates studying in Scotland.

Gala Malbasic, of the University of St Andrews, claimed first prize at the Young Software Engineer of the Year awards, for an innovative project using sensors to replace complex keyboard sequences with gestures, using the whole surface of a laptop or tablet.

Second place was won by Orisa Ngampakdeepanich from the University of Edinburgh for her project developing an app to stimulate play-based learning for children with autism spectrum condition. Irina Camilleri from the University of Strathclyde won third place with an innovative mapping technique for cyclists using sensor based crowd sourced data.

The Leidos Software Engineering Project Award went to Amy Parent from the University of Abertay for developing a reusable technology system for high-altitude balloon missions used by meteorologists and researchers.

The Young Software Engineer of the Year Awards, now in their 28th year, are given to the best undergraduate software projects, drawn from across all students studying computing science and software engineering in Scotland. Each university submits the best final year undergraduate software engineering project from amongst their students.

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The event is organised by ScotlandIS, the trade body for the digital technologies industry, and the winners were revealed at a reception in Edinburgh on Thursday evening.

Hailing from Serbia but born in Canada, Gala spent her formative years in Russia and Cyprus, before coming to Scotland to complete her undergraduate studies in computer science at the University of St Andrews.

She was president of the St Andrews Computing Society and helped set up ‘StacsHack’ - a student-organised tech event and hackathon in the Fife town.

Gala was also a founding member of ‘Startup St Andrews’ - a 52 hour entrepreneurial challenge conducted in collaboration with Bloomberg LP, the Saltire Foundation and the Entrepreneurship Society.

In between her studies, Gala undertook internships with Candy Crush developers, King, with travel startup Secret Escapes, and Makers Academy in London.

She has now taken up a full-time role as a software engineer at Bloomberg LP, the international specialists in news and information for the financial services industry.

Gala’s project called ‘Leap Up: The Keyboard Renaissance’ set out to simplify some of the complex keyboard short cut sequences that people use when working with laptops and tablets, and reduce the need to use both mouse and keyboard. By utilising the ‘dead space’ on and around the keyboard to enable gestures to be recognised using sensors placed strategically around and above computer keyboards, Gala aims to make keyboard interaction much quicker and simpler.

The project involved creating a hardware prototype, using software techniques to ensure optimal sensor performance, developing a library of ‘core’ functions and implementing a large gesture set to use with the system.

The judges considered this project to be exceptional. As overall winner of the Young Software Engineer of the Year Award Gala received a cheque for £2500 from Sopra Steria, and a trophy from ScotlandIS.

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