Tawfeeq Jawhar left Lebanon three years ago to seek better and more affordable higher education in Canada. Today, Tawfeeq is one of the twenty winners of “Hack the North” competition that went on this past September 20.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Jawhar studied architecture for a year at LAU. However, he quickly realized that he wasn’t as passionate about it as he was for math and engineering.
“I chose Computer Engineering because I had no idea what specialty I was interested in the most, and in computer engineering you basically can specialize in anything. Right now, I am more interested in software than hardware, and am working with Artificial Intelligence, genetic algorithms and evolutionary algorithms,” commented Jawhar.
And so, he moved to Canada to study computer engineering in 2012. This year, he had the opportunity to participate in “Hack the North”, the biggest Canadian hackathon, organized by the University of Waterloo in Ontario.
A hackathon is an “invention marathon” where computer programmers and other developers work in teams to create a software or hardware project from scratch.
“The hackathon is made of 36 hours of hacking. We start on Friday at midnight and finish by Sunday noon. We are not allowed to start working on the project before the hackathon begins. That’s the fun of hackathons: no sleep, and the race to finish your project on time,” said Jawhar.
Jawhar and his partner ended up winning the “Best Game Award” after their project captured the attention of a sponsor, The Big Viking Games. Their invention was an augmented reality mobile game where a real, live robot battles virtual zombies.
“The user will be driving around the robot and shooting virtual zombies using an Android phone. One wins if one kills all the zombies before they get to him or her,” he added.
The hackathon saw over 1,000 student contestants, but only gave 20 participants the chance to win awards of different categories.
“I will graduate in 2017, so until then I will be attending more hackathons. I got accepted into Yale’s hackathon in November; that will be fun!” continued Jawhar, who plans to gain more experience in gaming.
Currently, Jawhar is working with a professor on an intelligent machine designed to have the characteristics of living organisms, and is designing and implementing the virtual version of this design.
At the end of the day, it is people like Jawhar who make us proud to be Lebanese, and wish that circumstances were different and that brilliant minds like Jawhar are given such great opportunities here in Lebanon rather than in foreign countries.
Until then, people like Jawhar will have to continue to find places that will better assist them in making their dreams turn into reality.