Student project wins nationwide innovation contest

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Sunday, February 17, 2013


A SYSTEM that allows homeowners to monitor and control lights and electrical appliances in their homes from anywhere via mobile technology won the 9th SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards last Thursday in Makati City.

Colegio De San Juan Letran’s SMS.AWT: Switching and Monitoring System Using Android in Wireless Technology was picked the best among the 10 finalists that made it to the finals of the nationwide search for student applications with the theme “Technology in Nation-Building.”

The student team, led by 5th year computer engineering student Frances Marie Kagahastian, won P500,000 in cash and an equivalent amount in grants for the school.

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The team won an additional P50,000 for the Ericsson Networked Society Award. It was the first time for the school to join the contest.

Kagahastian said the system that they developed is ready for deployment and can be set up in a home for P30,000. She will meet with Smart officials again this week to figure out the next steps for her project.

Tarlac State University’s Smart Head or Helmet Engineered for Accidents and Disasters won 1st runner up. The team led by Ranier Rivera won P200,000 in cash and an equivalent amount in grants for the school. Their project involves a system with a helmet that facilitates rescue via reporting of location of an accident through global positioning system (GPS).

Grocery shopping on phone

De La Salle Lipa’s Systematic Market Application for Real Time Trading was named 2nd runner up and won P150,000 in cash for the student team and an equivalent amount in grants for the school. The system allows people to buy groceries on their phone via an Android application. The buyer can then pick up the groceries later from the store or have it delivered. The app won an additional P100,000 as Best Mobile Application from the Smart Developers’ Network.

IdeaSpace Foundation handed a Best Business Case award and P100,000 to the University of Southeastern Philippines for Wordify, a phone application that processes images of words and translates these into various languages.

Organizers also announced an on-the-spot award from Voyager, Inc., a new Smart subsidiary that focuses on innovations outside the company’s core business. They gave P100,000 to the Ateneo de Manila University team behind Botika-On-The-Go, a mobile phone application that integrates medicine inventory, database on drugs information and a drug stores directory with map integration.

IdeaSpace Foundation president Earl Valencia said the submissions by students show a shift toward mobile applications interacting with electronic systems. “I think more and more that’s where the world is coming to – that the phone is an enabler for a new experience.”

PLDT and Smart technology head Rolando Peña, who started the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program or Sweep, said the students have “elevated the level of the competition.”

“This is the first time that we see a lot of these mobile applications. And you can see that they can be useful to our everyday life,” he said in an interview after the awards.

Smart developer evangelist Paul Pajo said the student projects were of high quality and showed extensive integration between various systems.

Beyond competition

What’s different about this year’s Sweep awards is the involvement of IdeaSpace, said Smart and PLDT public affairs head Ramon Isberto. It is “no longer just a competition in which you submit a school project to win prizes,” he said.

“There’s now a development path beyond the competition. The products or the innovations that are developed and submitted to Sweep actually now have a…clear path to become commercial products. And even possibly commercial products around which enterprises can be developed and built,” he said.

Starting this year, the students were required to present a business model for their projects.

Isberto said this impacts the way schools approach the contest, which traditionally had been an electronics and communications engineering field.

“If the school wants to be holistic about it, you should be bringing in your business students to make inputs in the development of these kinds of innovation. I think when they do that, it would be a much more enriching and rewarding experience or effort on the part of the school. Integrating engineering, IT and business I think is an important step forward for many of these schools, bringing them closer to real life,” he said.

Valencia said Smart and IdeaSpace “want to show the world that these student projects don’t end. The ones that are so interesting we should continue.”

Incubation program

IdeaSpace is incubating three previous Smart Sweep submissions: a Braille cell phone and obstacle detector, a system that allows one to leave a queue and be alerted via SMS when its near your turn in line and a platform for runners and race organizers that started from a project to allow people to donate to charities and relief efforts.

Each of team gets P500,000 and undergoes an incubation program meant to set them up as a business.

In his speech, Smart and PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan pushed for stronger focus on science and technology. He said the country’s lack of scientists is a challenge and an opportunity for the student engineers.

“I hope you do better than my generation in pursuing careers in engineering, science and technology,” Pangilinan said, “You have a brain, so use it. You have a heart be bold, be brave and take risks.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 18, 2013.

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