ITMO: ITMO Holds First Forum for Winners of National Mega Contest

This spring ITMO hosted the first national Mega Contest, winners of which can enroll into the university’s Master’s programs without entrance exams. A total of 1,348 participants, Bachelor’s graduates of years 2020 and 2021 from various Russian cities, competed in 13 tracks, with only 41 of them. The winners received travel grants to get to the Mega Forum, where they got to know the university, advanced their skills at workshops, and participated in a hackathon.

Workshops on soft skills and a farming hackathon
Over the four days of the Mega Forum, the participants were introduced to St. Petersburg and ITMO University – they enjoyed tours of various labs and departments, as well as presentations of different educational programs. Moreover, the students had the opportunity to chat with lecturers and visit their classes. For instance, researcher at the School of Physics and Engineering Nikita Olekhno shared his tips for scoring a research grant, while Daria Denisova, the head of ITMO’s Center for Science Communication, explained how experts should communicate with their audiences. At the lecture by head of the School of Translational Information Technologies Alexander Boukhanovsky the students learned more about promising AI technologies and the dangers they are associated with. Apart from that, the participants attended workshops, where they boosted their soft skills, for instance, learned to compile CVs and look for internships, as well as work in teams, make and deliver presentations.

“The Mega Forum is an educational event for Mega Contest winners that consists of several components. First of all, we award the best participants of the contest. Second, we introduce them to ITMO University and its departments, laboratories, and lecturers. As a result, our participants meet their peers and learn something new – this way, we encourage networking and generation of new ideas. Finally, we strive to present ITMO as an advantageous place for education, so that in the future these students would consider the university as the next step in their educational path,” shares Nikolai Pshenichny, organizer of the Mega Forum and head of ITMO’s Career Development Office.

For their final activity at the forum, in 8 hours the students had to develop a project for an energy-efficient, eco-friendly, and safe farm that can sew, grow, and reap the harvest with no human engagement. Several ideas were presented to the jury, including an automated hydroponic farm producing mushrooms, honey, and Zophobas morio. However, the winning idea for an automated mushroom farm was suggested by Nikita Buzhlakov, Polina Dubinina, Vyacheslav Strashilin, Rolan Shaifutdinov, and Anastasia Filatova, who were all awarded ITMO merch for their win.

“We had very heated discussions on the team when we were choosing the product we would like to produce before finally settling on mushrooms as an optimal solution that can also garner a good revenue. As we didn’t have a strict division of roles inside the team, together we researched the market to find a niche we could fit into, as well as the cheapest product to manufacture,” explained Polina Dubinina.