Largest Google conference in CT held at Southern


August PelliccioGeneral Assignment Reporter

DevFest is a program Google runs annually, and this year’s presentation at Southern was the largest conference in the state.

Senior computer science student and coordinator of this event, Michael Solati, said that Google Developer Groups (GDG) is a platform for developers to share resources. GDG runs DevFest, a season of conferences hosted across the globe. Solati helped develop the GDG in New Haven, and some of the Google employees who run it asked why nobody in CT had hosted DevFest. Solati said he was up to the challenge, and coordinated the largest Google conference in the state, which ended up on Nov. 4.

“Even though we have Google’s backing, it really is a community driven event,” said Solati.

He went on to explain that his goal was to provide a platform for CT developers to commune and to introduce the community to those who might not know there is one.

“I’ve been lucky to have professors that I find care, and are very educated, and they blow me away,” said Solati. “I figured this would be a great place to do something like this.”

Lisa Lancor, head of the computer sciences department confirmed that this DevFest was absolutely the first event of this scale that the department held, with 146 people in attendance.

“We were expecting 50-75, and we were happy with that,” said Lancor. “It exceeded all of our expectations.”

Solati said that just two weeks out from the event, the registration was at 60 people. The day of the event, he learned that the registration was up over 110 people, and the event eventually sold out at 146.

“It was a good surprise to have, but it was a bit of a shock,” said Solati.

Robert Crowdis, a senior computer science student and assistant organizer of GDG New Haven said he was impressed with the sheer number of people there.

“It was a really great event, and we’re looking forward to next year, doubling or tripling the size,” said Crowdis.

Crowdis said he thinks in years to come, they will look back on this event smiling, and he said he hopes future keynote speakers say something along the lines of, “Hey does anyone remember our first DevFest? Look where we are now!”

Another senior computer sciences student, Daria Morgan said she was most impressed with the reach that event planning ended up having.

“One of the things that’s most promising about what they’ve pulled off is all of the people who traveled, and where they traveled from,” Morgan said.

Morgan went on to explain that not only were people from all over the state at DevFest, but some speakers and members were from as far as Rhode Island, Chicago, and Paris.

Solati said that the event was divided into two tracks, one held in Engleman A120, and the other in the Garner recital hall. One was dedicated to web development, and the other was focused on cloud computing and artificial intelligence.

In the latter of the two tracks, Solati said he was particularly excited about speaker Chris Welty. Welty is now an AI engineer at Google, but was famous for his work spearheading the IBM Watson Jeopardy project from 2010.

“Just to have someone of his caliber come here to Southern was mind-boggling,” Solati said.

Solati and Crowdis both said the event went better than they could have imagined, even though it was planned in just two and a half months.

Crowdis looks forward to seeing future DevFest conferences at Southern, and he said, “I think it’s really important for computer science students to know that there’s resources out there besides a club.”

Photo Courtesy: Vern Williams

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