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Scott Hiett is one to watch. I spoke to the 15-year-old Marling School student soon after his victory at Finastra’s FusionONE Hackathon, beating other developers double (or even triple) his age with his team’s winning product HYBER, an AI-based foreign exchange app that allows users to grow holiday money ahead of their trip.
When Hiett was seven, he bought himself a ‘Teach Yourself Visual Basic’ book with a gift voucher he got for his birthday and “read it backwards, forwards, upside down, left to right, and spent a lot of time making cool little projects,” before moving on to another book, ‘How to build an Android app’.
The self-taught coder was then able write an app on his phone, with a little help from YouTube tutorials and continued to develop his skills until he was able to fluently code in most programming languages. When I asked him if he could tell me the number of languages he could code in, Hiett explained that “in programming, you get to the point where you understand the concepts, look at the syntax and you can generally write something in it.
“I try to write in as many languages as I can but generally, if I’m given a project, a language is something I can very quickly get to grips with and use.” Other than taking part in hackathons and learning how to play bass guitar in his spare time, Hiett is focused on SimSync, the popular Sims 4 multiplayer mod, of which he is the lead developer and co-owner, with a current staff of 20 and over 22,000 people in the Discord server.
After EA offered the Sims game for free for a limited time, this number grew by around 1,000 people a day when gamers realised it was single-player only and wanted more and Hiett revealed that, with a number of YouTubers already on board, the mod’s potential reach is in the hundreds of thousands. This is under the umbrella of Delane Studios, a set-up that Hiett has with two others, but the trio are considering establishing a parent company that will help with hosting servers and further expansion.
Alongside this, Hiett works on Matador Gaming, the Marling School eSports team where he built the website and a unique overlay system for live game streaming – a project which now has around 350 students involved, “not just on the gaming side, but we have created a full production team, from sound crew and video production to graphic design and programming and we’re helping nurture new talent into eSports and media in general.”
This, and being an accomplished public speaker for one so relatively young, led to Hiett winning the National Best Shoutcaster (commentator in eSports) award for the Digital Schoolhouse Overwatch tournament last month. This experience got him connected with a certain eSports company that is now encouraging Hiett to help with their upcoming blockchain project to provide more security for teams and players alike – a prospect that excites Hiett.
Another win for Hiett was at the Finastra Hackathon, where his team came up with the idea for HYBER over pizza and talking about their holidays. “This led us on to a question we were all confused about, which was when is the best time to convert your money and how do you know you’re getting the best rate?” Using FX Data APIs and AI to analyse social data sentiment, they were able to build a working app proof of concept in just 48 hours.
He explained that while in theory this idea is good, an app like this doesn’t exist because it’s high risk. “Hackathons provide a risk-free environment where you have the opportunity to innovate and try things out that might not necessarily work or that might cost a lot to scale but creating it as a working concept over a weekend shows there could be something there”.
How does he find the time? Hiett said that he is “big on time optimization. I get my homework done over the lunch hour when I can, to leave my evenings free. I see programming as a hobby, not as a job, so I have the motivation to code for extended periods of time.” After education, Hiett would like to embark on a research role to advance computer science. He has his heart set on attending one of the esteemed colleges in the U.S. and is busy building his portfolio for the competitive application process – which is what motivated him to take part in the Finastra Hackathon.
May 31, 2019 at 05:47AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs