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ADP Technologists Win Big at NASA Hackathon


Meet a team of international champions! 

Carlos N., Lead Data Scientist, Willian L., Associate Developer, Katsutoshi F., Senior UX Designer, Bruno D., UX Designer, and their two teammates were the winners of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, the largest global hackathon in 2023!  

The team took on the challenge of hacking accurate, AI-generated matchmaking. You read that right: matchmaking, but this isn't your classic blind date. The group created an app with artificial intelligence (AI) that connects project creators and Open Science enthusiasts in the community. 

Q: Tell us a little bit about what you do at ADP. 

Carlos: I'm a Lead Data Scientist in the Machine Learning Team. I work with Generative Models, Prompt Engineering, Information Retrieval, Retrieved Augmented Generation (RAG), Data Science, Machine Learning Operations (MLOPs), and many more. 

Bruno: I'm a UX Designer who enjoys participating in a few initiatives, such as UX communication teams and the UX Motion Hub Team at ADP. 

Willian: I work in the Data Analytics Team. My work is to collect and transform data from multiple sources and transform information in the form of reports, analyses, and dashboards. 

Toshi: I design processes that help associates foster their ideas through boot camps, acceleration programs, and workshops. As a Senior Designer, I build product concepts and their development roadmap. I am also responsible for strategic planning, connecting business, technology, and user-necessity with generative research.  

Q: How did you hear about the hackathon, and why did you sign up? 

Carlos: I have always wanted to participate in hackathons. In 2019, I discovered that NASA had the world's largest hackathon. I knew I had to be a part of it. 

Toshi: Innovation is about building connections, and I have always sought opportunities to challenge myself. Carlos invited me to be part of the team, and I was ready to make an impact.  

Q: Tell us about your project and teammates. 

Toshi: We designed an intelligent matchmaking platform for Project Creators and Open Science enthusiasts. The goal is to promote accessible science for everyone.  

Willian: Carlos and I worked seamlessly on the AI model's architecture and implementation. Bruno did an incredible job creating the user interface, bringing life and an astonishing visual to the project. Katsutoshi created a perfect environment for ideas and polished the narrative like a master. Everyone gave their best to the project! 

Six people sitting around the table

Q: What was the most difficult part? How did you overcome the challenges? 

Toshi: One of the main challenges was to pitch our concept in three minutes and make everyone understand it in that amount of time.

Q: What technologies did you use?  

Willian: We used four different models of AI: GenAI, Recommendation Models, Information Retrieval, and Named Entity Recognition (NER). Each of them communicated with each other and complemented each other. Together, they created an intelligent environment that organically connects people and projects. 

Bruno: Besides the four models that communicate with each other, I used Figma for the design portion. It helped a lot in creating the visuals, flows, and prototypes. 

Q: How did you feel when you heard that your team won? 

Toshi: It was a realization of the arduous work done by everyone. I am still thrilled about the accomplishment, and the friendship we built during the process was undoubtedly the most rewarding part. It's for life!  

Q: How did ADP support your participation throughout the hackathon? 

Willian: My leaders and team have been so supportive. They incentivized and inspired me to do my best! 

Toshi: The Business Resource Group (BRG) at ADP Brazil Labs, such as the Toastmasters Club, connected us and made the collaboration possible! I am grateful for the opportunities to exchange ideas across teams. 

Q: What lessons did you learn from participating in an external hackathon that you look forward to bringing into your work? 

Bruno: I learned that it's essential for us to communicate and share knowledge. For example, as a UX Designer, I align with developers and researchers to create the best project. We can always learn from each other and get better insights.  

Toshi: Opportunities like an external hackathon enhance our network and challenge us to step out of our comfort zones. There are apps we can build to create impact and bring new opportunities to the business. 

Q: For many people, participating in a hackathon can be intimidating. What piece of advice do you have for future participants? 

Bruno: If you have an idea, don't let it die. Go and share it with the world. The people you work with will always teach you something new. So even if you don't win the prize, you'll succeed in experience. 

Willian: Do it for the love of innovation. Don't go for a prize. Go because you want to do something unique, something groundbreaking.  

Carlos: You are what you think you are. Be an experimental person. Breathe innovation, and winning will follow.

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