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Roommates to Founders: What a Journey!

Friends motivate us to go just beyond who you are, and together you can achieve more.

Meet Shadrack Kiprotich and Aaron Kipkoech, two roommates from the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology who built the FursavsVirus Hackathon winning project.

I have interacted with Shadrack and Aaron in the Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors program and I had a chance to interview them on their recent win in the FursavsVirus National Hackathon challenge.

In brief who is Shadrack?

He is a Fourth-year student pursuing Bachelor of commerce, finance option. He is a beta Student Ambassador and works with .NET, Power Platform and a bit of Machine Learning.

What about Aaron?

He is also a beta Student Ambassador passionate about Cybersecurity and mobile development.

How did you get started in Technology?

Shadrack: In the first year, he joined most of the technology clubs in school. For instance, in the Microsoft Community, he got to learn C# for a year. Joining communities opened a sea of opportunities for him, for instance, a mentor in Joshua Ndemenge a Gold student ambassador. Thereafter, his classmates approached him to learn about technology where he gave them guidance on Power Platform.

Aaron: In high school, having learnt code basics my friends and I formed a club to teach others HTML/CSS. When I joined university I joined clubs and learnt about mobile development as well as teaching my classmates C language, every Friday.

What product did they present to FursavsVirus hackathon?

A mobile application, Plant Signal, where farmers can use to detect pests and diseases (using Azure Custom Vision) and get recommendations on chemicals they can use on the farm. The application also offers an E-commerce platform to purchase chemicals and have a chat with extension officers. The application is on play store with over 100 downloads.

How did you come up with the app idea?

Engineer Hack’s is an annual Hackathon, hosted by the Microsoft Student Ambassador program, at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology. During the 2019 Hackathon, they brainstormed in their dorm room for an idea on the submission deadline day and applied. The team was chosen to participate in the 48-hour Hackathon where they brought their product to life.

How You are now a team of four, how has been your experience, as a team and participating in competitions?

They needed to find individuals skilled in Artificial Intelligence and web development, hence the team expansion to four.

Aaron: Participating in teams has taught me how to contribute to projects and bringing ideas from different people into one.

Shadrack: Participating in teams has been amazing. We have also participated in over 7 showcase and competitions including Nyeri Agricultural Show, where they met with the Kenyan Agricultural Minister. Each had its theme where we had to align their product, Plant Signal, to the themes.

Fun Facts about Shadrack - He is a night owl who enjoys drinking coffee. The first thing he does in the morning is to check his phone. To pass time, he binges impractical jokers on YouTube

How has the Student Ambassador program contributed to their success?

Aaron: Plant Signal was conceived in a student ambassador organized hackathon, Engineers Hack. Other than that, access to help from experts and Student Ambassadors benefits such as Azure that has been of great help in the app development.

Shadrack: I am from a non-technical background, therefore most skills I learnt from the program. Other than that, the program provides access to online learning platforms such as Linkedin Learning and Microsoft Learn. Lastly, through sharing my story and teaching others he has gained confidence.

FursavsVirus Hackathon, what doors were opened?

Aaron: Fursa-vs-virus was a hackathon organized by the National Youth Council Kenya with the aim of bringing up the economy of the country after the coronavirus pandemic. We emerged winners and got Honorable mention from the president and are now incubated in the National Science Lab

Fun Facts about Aaron - He is a night owl who enjoys drinking coffee. The first thing he does in the morning is to check whether his window is closed. His favorite work time-waster is playing a game of Call-of-duty

What lessons did you learn from the FursavsVirus hackathon?

Shadrack: Grab opportunities when you can. We participated in the fursavsvirus hackathon, a virtual hackathon. Through the challenge, we learnt a lot, especially working remotely since this was our first virtual hackathon. Consequently, gaining a lot of skills through networking with experts in the agriculture and technology fields.

when was the last time you did something for the first time? - Best advice Shadrack has received

Parting shot:

Aaron: - Thanks to the Student Ambassador Program for the support and Joshua Ndemenge for technical help and advice. Advice: Make Stack Overflow your best friend!

Shadrack - Thanks to Aaron for always helping. Advice: Just learn something in tech you might never know where it will help you, regardless of your background.

Technology is best when it helps people, Best advice Aaron has received

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