IBM SkillsBuild Competition Summer 2018

Our Mission

To create a collaborative competition that furthers students professional development while teaching how to apply their non-technical and technical skills in the framework of a real project.

The Value to the Students

"I noticed there was a gap in some of the volunteer and mentorship programs I was participating in. They were focusing on teaching specific skill sets that they could provide value in really well - which there's nothing wrong with - but I noticed that there was an opportunity to combine those single models. I think the value lies in students understanding how the skills they are learning fit into the bigger picture, and what better place to build this program than at IBM - a company that excels in teaching their employees how to work together and use their different skill sets to build products that scale. So I came together with some other women at IBM that shared the same passion for student mentorship and sharing the benefits of working in technology to create the IBM SkillsBuild Competition. Our combined goal is to supply students with a well-rounded understanding of how their skills fit into real projects in hopes of helping them differentiate themselves in school and in the industry."
- Olivia, Co-Founder

The Value to IBM

Through the IBM SkillsBuild Competition, IBM showed its commitment to future technologists and was able to share some of their key products to a younger audience, like IBM Cloud Garage and Watson Assistant, while supporting their mission of creating and filling new collar jobs.


Create a chatbot using Watson Assistant, in only 5 weeks, and present in front of a panel of judges the problem your chatbot aims to solve, who the intended audience is, and the business value - through a live demo. The best pitch on presentation day wins the competition.

The chatbot was a tangible project for the students to build and take away - but the competition was more about understanding a project lifecycle. Through the 5 weeks they were taught about Design Thinking, the importance of understanding your users, project management, business cases, value propositions, storytelling, and more. The chatbot was a way for them to understand and apply key aspects of product design.

4 groups of 4

The competition had 16 student participants. We teamed with the NYC IBM P-TECH Program Manager to allow selected P-TECH summer interns to participate in this competition.

5 weeks

The competition had 16 student participants. We teamed with the NYC IBM P-TECH Program Manager to allow selected P-TECH summer interns to participate in this competition.

The competition officially met once a week on Thursdays, for 2 hours, From July 12th to Auguest 9th 2018 - only 4 total working sessions. Since the competition time frame was short, we predefined 4 chatbot solutions and selected teams of 4.

Week 1

  • Presentation: Competition Introduction, project overview, mentor introductions, expectations, intern introductions
  • Activity: Setup IBM Cloud (Bluemix) ID
  • Presentation and Activity: Intro to Watson Assistant and Chatbots, Guest Speaker: Chris Desmarais
  • Presentation and Activity: Intro to Agile, Guest Speaker: Anu Pasumarthy
  • Activity: Hopes and Fears exercise

Week 2

  • Activity: Moving Motivators - Group exercise to identify the project teams
  • Presentation and Activity: How to build a business case, client conversations, Guest Speaker: Victoria Papalian
  • Presentation: Intro to IBM Design Thinking, Guest Speaker: Kristen Kogachi
  • Activity: Create an empathy map of one of your users
  • Activity: Build and Present Business Cases

Week 3

  • Presentation: Deeper dive into Watson Assistant / Chatbots (Intents, Entities, Dialogs), Guest Speaker: Chris Desmarais
  • Activity: Work session

Week 4

  • Activity: Work session
  • Activity: Deploying chatbot, Guest Speaker: Kevin Chang
  • Presentation: Storytelling, how to deliver a compelling presentation, Guest Speaker: Craig DiFolco
  • Activity: Outline presentations

Week 5

  • Activity: Refine presentations and practice
  • Final presentations
  • Awards
  • Celebration

Week 1

Edwin A.

"During the first week of the IBM SkillsBuild Competition I learned about how teamwork can play a major role in completing tasks. I also learned that sometimes the more creative that you can get in a team the easier the project at hand can be as long as there is collaboration of all members. Although the task was something as simple as to get a gumdrop to stand as high as possible (Intro to Agile activity), it did require a lot of teamwork and thinking."

Week 2

Ricardo N.

"In our second meeting for the IBM SkillsBuild Competition, I was assigned to a team based on my work-style and then choose our topic by randomly pulling a card. My team was given the task of building a chatbot that answers questions about women who have contributed to the tech industry. By using the resources provided in the meeting, we developed a business case on how to proceed with our chatbot and a proposal in order to sell our product."

Week 3

Carson O.

"Last week for the IBM SkillsBuild Competition, our team had, like many others, begun building their chatbot. When we started we weren't familiar with how the site was supposed to run but luckily we were given time to familiarize ourselves with chatbot that we had full creative control over. It was interesting to see that back end of what some software developers do for various applications. Soon after, we got started on our team assigned chatbot and we made great strides working as a team completing our intents and getting started on our entities. Nearing the end of the event, we came up with a project plan for our team where we could keep track of the tasks that we were supposed to complete. Working on this project so far has been very an exciting and interactive experience that I can't wait to take part in again."

Week 4

Briyanna M.

"As we come close to the end of the competition we met people to help with the final touches of our chatbots. We met Kevin Chang who demonstrated how to deploy our bots and what deploying is. Although we didn't get to try it out, it was still pretty cool to see how these sophisticated codes and letters could amount to simple input/output phrases from the chatbot. Another speaker who was very much appreciated was Craig. His energy and information was needed as we are preparing our PowerPoint and delivery. One thing that he said that stuck out to me was "Be comfortable with silence" in reference to taking pauses in between speeches. Now that both of them have spoken I have a better idea of how to present for future reference and how I want my team to present our bot."

1st Place: I ♥ NYC Chatbot

More pictures coming soon.

Competition Mentors

Competition Advisors

Competition Creators