A team of Swinburne students are the winners of the Motorola Solutions 2018 Public Safety Hackathon for an app that would help people in extreme weather situations, marking the first time university students have won the competition.
Team Razorback is comprised of four information technology (IT) students, Andreas Ioannidis, Anh (Ken) Tran, Mathew Wakefield and Nami Shah, who received a $25,000 prize for their app idea.
Their winning concept was an extreme weather reporting app designed to improve the quality and accuracy of public reports about landslides, fallen trees and other dangers, in response to the challenge set by Victoria State Emergency Services (VicSES).
Engagement Director for the School of Software and Electrical Engineering, Dr Caslon Chua, says the students were hand-picked for their diverse range of IT skills.
“The team was comprised of one computer science undergraduate and three master of IT students with a mix of expertise,” Dr Chua says.
“The students were able to apply what they’ve learnt theoretically to the creation of this app. Between them they’ve studied human computer interaction, web and mobile development, and cloud computing. With this knowledge, they were able to come up with an effective solution.”
Students taking on the big leagues
Mr Wakefield says that although it was daunting going up against agencies, large companies, and staff and PhD students from other universities, the team was prepared to address the challenge.
“The web development and user-centred design knowledge I’ve gained through my course gave me everything I needed to tackle the problem,” Mr Wakefield says.
Ms Shah says the experience has been extremely valuable and has proven that the skills she’s learning at Swinburne can be applied to real-world projects.
“It has been so rewarding to learn that our apps can help public safety agencies to work more efficiently while making our communities safer,” Ms Shah says.
Helping emergency services
Mr Ioannidis hopes to progress their concept with further guidance from VicSES and Motorola.
“We entered this hackathon not to win the first place prize, but to improve the performance and efficiency of our emergency services,” Mr Ioannidis says.
“I think this app will be extremely valuable to VicSES in improving accuracy of the publics’ reporting on weather-related incidents.”
The app would enable people to use their smart phones to capture images of fallen trees and other obstacles, leveraging other software tools to accurately measure the size of hazards. It also enables real-time reporting of road conditions.
Vice President and Managing Director for Motorola Solutions Australia and New Zealand, Steve Crutchfield, praised the team for their response to this real-world operational problem, saying their solution allows emergency services to access the vital data citizens capture using smartphones.
“By providing first responders with the right data at the right time, we can all have a profound impact on the future of public safety,” Mr Crutchfield says.