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Canadian Developers: Watch the Esri Developer Summit and ECCE App Challenge

Both the Esri Developer Summit and the ECCE App Challenge are fast approaching. Whether you attend the Dev Summit to learn and network, or you follow the App Challenge to see what students can develop, maybe finding a co-op student or new hire along the way, both events should be on the Canadian developer’s calendar.

Photo of green text on a window with a courtyard behind. The text reads eat code coffee sleep

A developer's motto found during the Dev Summit. Photo credit: Susie Saliola

It is almost time for the Esri Developer Summit, the annual congregation of GIS developers in Palm Springs, California, to network, learn, and showcase their work. The Dev Summit is all about developers and focuses on the use of technology. From technical sessions for all levels of experience to product demonstrations, networking events to user presentations, there is more than enough for anyone to do, from students to seasoned professionals. You can spend the morning learning to visualize large datasets using the ArcGIS Maps SDK for JavaScript, then move on to spatial data science with ArcGIS Notebooks in the early afternoon, go over to building your first widget with ArcGIS Experience Builder, and finish the day at the DevSummit Party, including participating in or spectating the dodgeball tournament.  

Photo taken from behind of two Esri Canada Higher Education staff members watching the sun rise over Palm Springs while sitting on a rock on a mountain to the west of the city.

Higher Education staff on a sunrise hike looking over the Dev Summit convention center. Photo credit: Jonathan Van Dusen

While attending the Dev Summit in person is a valuable experience, not everyone is able to do so, due to time restrictions, travel budgets, visa issues, or other reasons. Fortunately, a digital access option is available. In 2023, around 1280 people attended virtually, approaching the number of in-person attendees at 1850 people. This year, digital access grants you access to over 30 livestreamed sessions, and over 100 recorded sessions available to watch at a later date. If you don’t have time or have other obligations during a recorded session, don’t worry; if you miss something online or in-person, you can watch it on your own time at a later date.

Another annual developer event is the Esri Canada GIS Centres of Excellence (ECCE) App Challenge. The ECCE is a network of a select group of colleges and universities in Canada. Each institution nominates a handful of students to be our ECCE Student Associates, who write blog posts and generally promote the use of GIS at their institutions. One of the highlights of the year is the App Challenge. Each ECCE institution puts forward teams composed of the ECCE Student Associates and other interested students to compete. If you are an employer looking for co-op students or new GIS developers, this is a great event to follow.

The App Challenge is run to help promote innovation and creativity, with a focus on positive change. Past themes have covered topics such as sustainability and inequality. The App Challenge can be a stressful week, kicked off by the reveal of the theme teams must address with their apps. Students have to brainstorm app ideas, find data, design and develop their app, and create the supporting content.

The main deliverable of the challenge is the app itself. Students have the freedom to build their app in almost any way they want, as long as they include some ArcGIS components and use open-source data. There are many directions for teams to go, all with the potential to win. Some teams will develop custom web apps using the ArcGIS Maps SDK for JavaScript, or native apps for Android or iOS with ArcGIS Maps SDK for Kotlin or ArcGIS Maps SDK for Swift. Some teams will use Experience Builder to build apps without the need to write code or go for a low-code option by using the Developer Edition to develop custom widgets. And some teams will focus on creating an impactful story around their topic using ArcGIS StoryMaps and multipage apps in Experience Builder. Whichever direction they choose to approach the challenge from, teams will have a hectic week getting everything done. They can try to prepare by studying and practicing with the various platforms to learn how to build the general types of apps they like, but they must wait in anticipation for the theme of the challenge to be revealed the moment their week begins.

This year, the App Challenge runs between February 15 and April 5, with institutions selecting the week their teams will participate. After all teams have submitted their apps, their submissions are hosted on the ECCE website and the judging begins. First, an internal round of judging by the members of Education and Research narrow it down to the top 10 teams. then, external judges review the top 10 submissions to select the winners and runners-up. For more information, go to and check for updates on our ECCE X/Twitter @EsriCanada_CE

To all our ECCE App Challenge participants this year, good luck! We look forward to seeing what you can achieve!

About the Author

Alex Smith is a Higher Education Specialist at Esri Canada. He focuses on managing the Esri Canada GIS Centres of Excellence, developing spatial data science resources and conducting research projects. He first began working with ArcGIS products in high school, but had a more formal introduction while studying Geomatics at the University of Waterloo. A fourth-year project led to a Master of Science degree focusing on the classification of land use and cover using machine learning techniques. Alex then went on to complete his doctorate at Simon Fraser University, writing his thesis on agent-based modelling and spatial statistics in three-dimensional space plus time. In his free time, Alex likes being outdoors while hiking, climbing and playing ultimate frisbee, as well as being in the kitchen baking.

Profile Photo of Alex Smith