Long the highlight of SAP TechEd, DemoJam is a competition in which developers present live demos of new applications built with SAP technology. This year in Las Vegas, however, the competition had a novel twist in store.
Three middle-school students from Maryland, barely able to peer over the presenter’s podium, catapulted themselves into the running for the coveted cup.
Middle-schoolers school the competition
Nikola Bura, 11; Jordan Qassis, 12, and Angelo Castro, 13, all students at Roberto Clemente Middle School, presented “Food Agent,” an iPhone app that scans quick response (QR) codes on grocery products and provides consumers information on an item’s origin and ingredients.
DemoJam rules give contestants six minutes to demo a live application using SAP technology that shows innovation and wow-effect. And that’s only the technical side of it for the troop of tweens. The more formidable task was going up against seasoned rivals in a live setting in front of thousands of boisterous software programmers.
Second place among six teams
Topping the school kids, but just barely, were Will Powell and Nic Doodson of Keytree, an SAP partner in the UK. Powell and Doofson presented “Store Trek,” a three-dimensional, voice- and gesture-controlled virtual shopping environment powered by SAP HANA and SAP NetWeaver. And while Nikola, Jordan, and Angelo may not have won the contest, they surely stole the show.
Considering most of their opponents had college degrees before the three kid-contenders were even born, the achievement is nothing short of remarkable – for them and for SAP. The software solutions made by the 40-year-old company are still falsely perceived by some as clunky and anachronistic, and suited only for big companies. The kids absolutely dispelled this myth.
SAP Mentor John Astill looked after the boys from the inception of their solution to its final debugging, just a few hours before the big show. The SAP developer was instrumental in coaching and encouraging Nikola, Angelo, and Jordan toward their grand performance. “I hope they meet their dreams,” John said. “If their dream is to continue in engineering and development, then I think they’ve got the talent and I think they can succeed.”
Read on the next page: The next Bill McDermott?
Timeless software, ageless too
The significance of the trio’s accomplishment wasn’t lost on the SAP TechEd audience. In the theater, the crowd’s wild applause heralded a new meaning to the notion of timeless software – if not introducing “ageless” software.
For their part, Nikola, Jordan, and Angelo gave tweens everywhere a good name, and that’s no small feat. They handled themselves with dignity and grace in what would be a challenging situation at any age.
As word spread about their DemoJam achievement, the boys became instant SAP TechEd celebrities. A film crew followed their every move for the entire day (see video). SAP Executive Board member Vishal Sikka gave a shout out to boys at his keynote, “These three kids, they built an application, and they built it on SAP NetWeaver Cloud,” Vishal said. “This is an extraordinary example of what the future holds.”
The next Bill McDermott?
Later in the day SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott shook hands with the lads, and then handed out business cards. “We’ve got to stay in touch,” he said. “When you guys become lead developers or CEOs, don’t forget your friends, alright?” The high-profile attention didn’t seem to faze the crew from Germantown, as if they were accustomed to attending business conferences and receiving C-level executives.
When one of the boys was asked before the contest if he was nervous at the prospect of presenting a technology demo from a gigantic stage, he barely looked up from his smart phone, on which he was playing Minecraft. “Nope,” he said in a cool and composed manner.
As comfortable as they were in front of the cameras and in the presence of corporate leaders, the two boys who presented were positively at home on the SAP TechEd main stage. DemoJam rules prohibit more than two presenters, so Jordan cheered his teammates from the audience.
Nikola was particularly composed, effortlessly smoothing over flubs and peppering his presentation with impromptu jokes that hit the mark with the audience. As he craned his neck just over the podium from which he was presenting, you could glimpse the knowledge and charisma of a future technology leader. So at the end of the presentation, when Angelo quipped “If anyone at SAP Retail would like to offer a scholarship…,” some in the crowd may have been thinking more along the lines of a job offer.