The UK’s inaugural Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Champions 2020 invited university students to complete a complex challenge by applying skills learnt by certifying in Microsoft’s AZ900 Azure Fundamentals – a course which provides fundamental knowledge of cloud security, privacy, compliance, and trust.
The 2020 championship, hosted by Prodigy Learning and Microsoft and launched in June during the CertMatters.Live Online webinar, had two first place and two second place winners – all of whom are studying in the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science. This impressive feat highlights the level of skill and creativity acquired by young computer scientists at Lincoln.
Undergraduate students Garry Lawson and Callum Thompson were named as overall winners in the championship, each winning Surface Headphones and the coveted UK trophy, with Jacob Marshall and Zak Hargreaves securing second prize. Garry, Jacob and Zak are all currently studying on Lincoln’s Computer Science course, while Callum is on the Games Computing degree programme.
“The Microsoft Azure Fundamentals Championship is a fantastic event and I’m thrilled to have been a part of it this year.” said Chris Rothwell, Director of Education, Microsoft UK. “Empowering learners with Azure Fundamentals Certification in the current climate means they will come out of this ready to kick-start their cloud computing careers. The talent and cloud computing skills these young people have demonstrated are amazing, and I am confident that with this valuable industry recognised certification which they have achieved, represent a bright future for the Cloud Computing industry and the future skilled workforce.”
Dr Derek Foster, Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science, said: “At Lincoln we are constantly looking at ways to improve the student experience through industry partnerships and certification opportunities. The winning students took part in the School’s new AZ-900 Microsoft Azure Fundamentals extracurricular course and certification over the lockdown period. I am immensely proud of what they achieved and look forward to being able to offer more certification opportunities for students in the future.”
The national competition, which received entries from university students across the UK, invited participants to see themselves as ‘Azure Architects’ to solve a complex challenge. A Cloud Computing Architect is responsible for converting the technical requirements of a project into the architecture and design that will guide the final product. Often, Cloud Architects are also responsible for bridging the gaps between complex business problems and solutions in the cloud.
Given the current global pandemic of the COVID-19 virus, the global challenge for the UK Azure Student Championship this year was ‘healthcare’. Entrants could select any global challenge within healthcare to tackle and create a solution for, whether it be the COVID-19 virus or providing nutrition and water to those without.
The two teams of Lincoln students chose to focus on the current COVID-19 pandemic, with Garry and Callum exploring how buildings and infrastructure can reduce virus transmission – for example through AI controlled air conditioning and camera systems, while Jacob and Zak designed a new ‘track and trace’ system using Microsoft’s cloud software and services.
Winning student Garry Clawson said: “I am really proud to be named as a competition winner alongside Callum, who was a fantastic teammate. We put a lot of effort into developing our idea around tackling the COVID-19 global health issue and submitting our initial concept – we essentially wanted to leverage the power of Azure to provide the building itself with some sort of immune system. When delivering our final presentation to the Microsoft Team, we also created a live demonstration of our concept on Azure and with simulated IoT devices, and I think this helped us to stand out from the other entries.”
Commenting on the success of the competition Prodigy CEO, Andrew Flood, said: “The priority of Prodigy Learning as a global digital skills and certifications provider is to empower learners with industry-recognised, global certifications to support improved productivity whilst offering better employability opportunities. Now, more than ever it is critical we continue to deliver on our priority as the current situation presents a different employment landscape for students.”
“Celebrating the best of the best cloud computing skills at the inaugural Azure Fundamentals UK Championship 2020 has been a very exciting event for us. It is an honour to crown Garry and Callum as the first ever UK Azure Champions. The Azure Certification and participation in this final will stand out on their CVs and will be key to successful academic and career pursuits!”