May 23rd, 2013

The Next Great Data Developer scholarship program is in full-swing!  Our judging panel has selected 5 finalists to come together from all around the world to meet at the Cassandra Summit 2013 and present their Apache Cassandra powered applications. These 5 students have been working relentlessly on learning Apache Cassandra, introducing themselves to a variety of client drivers, building their prototypes and creating a final 5-minute video to be viewed by over 1,000 attandees at the conference.
A quick refresher if you aren’t familiar with the program:  All of our finalists will be presenting their videos and fielding live questions asked by the NGDD juding panel at Cassandra Summit 2013 in San Francisco, California.  Two of these finalists will be selected as winners after the conference and presented with $10,000 scholarships at OSCON 2013 in Portland, Oregon.

One of the greatest aspects of this program is its dedication to women in technology; from the start of this project, we’ve emphasized that women with a backround in computer science are strongly encouraged to join the program, build something great and hopefully walk away with a $10,000 scholarship.  One of the guidelines we’ve set in place is that at least one of our final two winners will be a female participant.  To our excitement, a total of 3 out of 5 of our finalists are women!
Found below is our list of finalists with a quick look at their backgrounds, what their projects are all about and a link to their blogs & GitHub pages, for a more technical and in-depth understanding of their projects.
We wish the best of luck to all of our finalists and we’re looking forward to seeing you at Cassandra Summit 2013!  If you haven’t already registered, use code SFSummit25 for 25% off of your ticket here.
Delgersuren Bold
San Francisco State University — San Francisco, CA
My full name is Delgersuren Bold. I am Master science student at San Francisco State University majoring Computer Science.  Java and Python are my most confortable languages.  I find visual data analysis are fascinating. I’m also interested in crowd-sourcing and distributed programming. My racial background is Mongolian and I speak Mongolian, Russian and English. My hobbies are playing drums, hiking out of nowhere, and watching movies; I also enjoy live music.  I am participating in NGDD/working with Apache Cassandra because I am curious of what capabilities I can find in Cassandra that will be beneficial to my Software Engineering needs. So far, I am enjoying elegance of NoSQL Cassandra compared to a traditional RDBMS. 
The goal of my project is to create a mobile/tablet application for mushroom hunting community to pin geographical location as well as figuring out whether mushroom is dangerous by pulling the data from the device. Additionally, application aims to create an sole panel for those who want to sell or buy mushrooms conveniently. Finally, this application made to challenge Cassandra NoSQL Database and its capability.
Shehaaz Saif
McGill University — Montreal, Canada
My name is Shehaaz Saif and I study Computer Science and Psychology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The first thing I looked up before the trip: “San Francisco Food”….I am a Certified Foodie. Fortunately, this passion is complemented with my love for Running. I started reading about the noSQL databases and one day I landed on the book “The Human Face of Big Data”, the case studies had epiphanic moments where the dots aligned and the data mapped to the real world, it really inspired me to learn about NoSQL technologies. According to Martin Fowler, a Column Family database such as Cassandra is optimal for event logging and analytics. i.e It has the ability to handle a lot of data, therefore, beginning from day ZERO with a Cassandra database instead of a typical MySQL database will advantage any modern application that expects to scale and provide the capabilities that users presently expect. 
One day I was walking around the mall with my girlfriend and she had said that she wants to go into the store “Forever 21” to see if there are any sales. I thought to myself: “it would be great to be able to be able to check an app that tells the user if there is a sale in stores nearby.”  This provoked me to develop an Android app that allows users to post bargains or sales directly from stores. It would be like RedFlagDeals, but with location specific information. If the user finds a deal he/she posts it to the app with a where, what and how much. (Depending on the user’s location a short list of stores would automatically show up for selection). They are also encouraged to post a picture of the item or the price tag. Every post is location tagged for later retrieval and other users can rate, comment and flag the posts.  When the user wants to find a deal, depending on the user’s location a stream of items from nearby stores would be displayed in a newsfeed. 
Victoria Mo
Columbia University — New York, NY
My name is Victoria Mo and I just completed my masters in Computer Science with a focus in Machine Learning at Columbia University (woohoo I graduated!).  My technical background includes programming trading algorithms and building a trading platform for hedge funds, but nowadays I enjoy exploring the different programming languages/technologies out there and checking out local hackathons. Outside of tech, I’m a competitive fencer and an amateur rock climber and skier, and I enjoy practicing yoga regularly.
For my project, I’m using the Cassandra driver for NodeJS called Helenus (created by Cassandra community member Russell Bradberry), and my experience with the NoSQL database Cassandra has been much more similar to my experiences with relational databases than I had originally anticipated. This challenge appealed to me because I had always wanted to check out a NoSQL database, and I’m really glad I did! Cassandra was conceptually straightforward to grasp, and it scales well (a benefit that I hope to take advantage of with NurseryStax!). 
My application, NurseryStax, was built to digitize and simplify how nurseries record, manage, and share data with parents. Administrators and parents will enjoy this application because they gain better insight into what goes on in the classroom. Nursery caregivers give papers to the parents at the end of the day that detail the child’s behavior, growth, and actions, but it ends up taking a lot of time to fill out each form for each child. NurseryStax would solve this problem by implementing a simple interface for caregivers to batch update the parents, and a real-time application that then updates parents/administrators on the fly.
Yuan Wang
San Francisco State University — San Francisco, CA
My name is Yuan Vivien Wang. I am a 3rd year grad student at San Francisco State University majoring in Software Engineering. Growing up as the only girl in my junior high school interested in programming, I have already dreamed to build up something to change people’s lives. I received two B.As from Peking University, China, one in Hindi and the other in Economics. Then I received a MA in theological studies at Harvard Divinity School. Later I was admitted to PHD in religion at Harvard but it was then I realized that my passion for IT can not wait. I became a freelance web developer at the age of 18 and I felt true happiness at SF State in acquiring abilities that I am passionate about and achieving my dreams.  Entering SF State, I completed all the undergrad level class and went on as a researching assistant for Prof Yang Hui, whose major focus is data-mining and cloud computing.
SmartGift is an online web application that allows people create events (like birthday, anniversary), generate wish list and invite friends to contribute. It guarantees saving people’s time and targeting at people’s most desirable gift. At its core, it combines person’s true heart-desired gift with his friends’ collective intelligence and budget. Inspired by wedding registry and Kickstarter, SmartGift is a unique service that offloads the time-consuming and random-goal gift picking efforts and transforms it into an interactive and constructive process for both recipients and givers.
Lyuben Todorov
University of Dundee — Scotland, UK
Firstly, I’m a the system developer at the University of St-Andrews in Scotland, secondly a student at the University of Dundee. Big-data and distributed systems grabbed my interest two years ago during a university project focusing on creating a Twitter clone application. We had a choice of databases and Cassandra was my primary choice. Why? Well, that’s the easiest question I’ll ever answer: New technology is interesting, I love learning about it, and Cassandra does things differently.
The aim of CassTor, the secure replacement for email, is to create a distributed system that can scale proportionally with it’s user base without the need of additional investment allowing for secure and anonymous access to a messaging service for each user whom is part of the system.  Email is used by everyone on a daily bases, but current systems’ security focuses on restricting access between individual users without being concerned about how much ISPs can see. Current systems that provide online anonymity rely on proxy-servers and VPNs to tunnel traffic, with the interface of these services being located in an online web-application. This means that users must first access these services through their web-browser meaning their ISPs still monitor their access to “anonymous” email systems.