Hacking their way to success at UB competition
Every year, restaurants and other institutions dump millions of pounds of unused food into the trash while millions of people don’t have enough, or sometimes anything at all, to eat.
But what if there was a high-tech system to connect the two, feed the needy, and eliminate food waste?
Recently, four enterprising University of Bridgeport (UB) engineering majors decided to find out at UB Hackathon, a three-day intercollegiate competition that challenges students to work on innovative projects, from start to finish, by using web, mobile, hardware or other hacks.
In fact, UB Hackathon was open to any college student “with ideas, a laptop, college ID, and a charger,” said Rahul Chaudhary, an entrepreneur in residence at UB’s Student Entrepreneur Center and one of the competition’s organizers.
In addition to UB, participating student teams represented Fairfield University, UConn, University of Hartford, Southern Connecticut State University, Norwalk Community College, and Manchester Community College.
The competition was judged by Valeria Bisceglia, a business adviser at Connecticut Small Business Development; Mark Lassoff, founder of Learn to Program, Inc.; and Christopher Moore, director of strategic data solutions at Americas. The Entrepreneurship Foundation, Unilever, UB, and Wolfram co-sponsored the event.
It turned out that reducing food waste through automation was a pretty good idea. Four first place Apple watches were awarded to UB students Ajay Menon, Sawmya Papaganti, Chandrika Pattnaik, and Vetrvelan Velu for their invention “Aahar,” Hindi for food or diet.
The foursome’s elegant system uses technologies like IoT (Internet of things) and cloud- and voice applications that allow restaurants to interact to create a database of their surplus food just by interacting with Alexa. The Aahar system also allows charitable organizations to order the food from those databases at a relatively low cost or for free. Aahar was created with hardware components provided by UB’s Emerging Communications Technologies Research Center at UB.
Second Place went to another UB student team for “Kitchen Buddy,” an app that allows users to match recipes with ingredients they have at home.
Third Place was awarded to “IOTA,” an automation system designed by UB students Soumil Shah, Akhil Balla, and Lavanya Aishani Challagundla that centralizes all current automation protocols. That allows people to, say, control their lights, fan, or other appliances by using a mobile app, SMS, or phone call.
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