Saarbrücken computer science students awarded with Prize for Outstanding Student Engagement

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University President Prof. Manfred Schmitt, BeStE award winners Benedict Böttger and Jonas Wengel, AStA chairs Irini Tselios and Hannah Spies. Photo: Jan Grolier

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Saarland University and the General Student Committee (AStA) of Saarland University today (Monday, 18.10.2021) awarded computer science students Benedict Böttger and Jonas Wengel with the Prize for Outstanding Student Engagement (Preis für Besonderes Studentisches Engagement, BeStE). The two founded a student online leisure service, the “UdS SOFA”, during the Corona pandemic. The BeStE award comes with 1,000 euros in prize money and will be presented at the opening of the Academic Year 2021/22.

The “UdS SOFA” (short for Studentische Online FreizeitAngebote) is a so-called Discord server, i.e. an online service for instant messaging, chat, voice conferences and video conferences. Here students can register free of charge, get to know each other and exchange information. Thereby they have the possibility to get in contact with fellow students within their study program as well as across disciplines. Currently, the “UdS SOFA” has almost 2,000 members.

“Of course, we were also affected by the restrictions caused by the Corona pandemic,” describes Benedict Böttger, a 19-year-old student of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. “Jonas and I therefore looked for a solution to get to know other students and started to build a Discord server. In the beginning, we ourselves would not have thought that our fellow students would ultimately benefit so much from our project.” Both students invest hours of work to this day to ensure that their server runs smoothly: “Especially in the initial phase, we sometimes put more than 10 hours a week into setting up the ‘UdS SOFA’, because we wanted to make our Discord server attractive to as many students as possible. Now that the channels for the different subjects have been created, the weekly effort has been reduced a bit. Nevertheless, we have to we have to keep an eye on the system because of numerous users, a bot we programmed ourselves, and the events we organize,” adds Böttger.

Jonas Wengel (20), a student of business informatics, emphasizes the diversity of the platform: “Benedict and I are always amazed at the ideas the other students have for using the server. Not only have study or learning groups been founded – many have also spent their free time during the pandemic on our server and thus met new people. We did our part by hosting interactive online events like game nights and cookouts. We believe we have really created something here that will stay even after the pandemic is over. We look forward to many events in the coming winter semester.” He also thanks the students who help organize the platform: “For example, without our dedicated team of presenters, our record-breaking game night with over 120 participants could not have happened.”

Professor of Computer Science and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, Jörg Hoffman, praises the commitment of the two award winners: “We are very proud that Mr. Böttger and Mr. Wengel have shown initiative as students of our faculty. Their excellent project ‘UdS SOFA’ helped many students to network with fellow students during the challenging times of contact restrictions, but also to clarify questions about studying. Thus, we as a faculty and many of our study programs have also benefited from this online solution. Because via ‘UdS SOFA’ students were able to help each other with more general matters, which relieved our study coordination.”

UdS SOFA Discord


Background BeStE Award:
Saarland University and AStA are announcing the “Prize for Outstanding Student Engagement” (BESTE Award) for the ninth time.

Students or student teams are eligible for the award if they can demonstrate an outstanding commitment that goes beyond their academic achievements and should be as unique and innovative as possible. There is no restriction on the manner in which this has been achieved. The commitment can, but does not have to be directly related to the university. Both current and completed projects are eligible for the award.

The prize is endowed with 1,000 euros and can be divided by the jury in the case of applications of equal quality. The prize will be awarded at the central opening ceremony of the academic year of Saarland University.

The award winner(s) will be selected by a five-member jury consisting of two students, one lecturer, one representative of the academic staff, and one representative of the central administration and facilities.

Background Saarland Informatics Campus:
800 scientists and about 2100 students from more than 80 nations make the Saarland Informatics Campus (SIC) one of the leading locations for computer science in Germany and Europe. Five globally renowned research institutes, namely the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science, the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, the Center for Bioinformatics and the Cluster for “Multimodal Computing and Interaction”, as well as Saarland University with three networked departments and 24 degree programs cover the entire range of topics in computer science.

Jan Grolier
Saarland Informatics Campus
Phone: +49 681 302-57331

Press photos for download for use free of charge in connection with this press release:

Preisträger BeStE Preis 2021 Universitätspräsident Prof. Manfred Schmitt und die AStA-Vorsitzenden

Die Öffentlichkeitsarbeit am Saarland Informatics Campus wird unterstützt durch das Kompetenzzentrum Informatik Saarland, gefördert aus Mitteln des Europäischen Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE) und Mitteln der Staatskanzlei Saarland.

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