THE winning team of Smart Communications Inc.'s (Smart) 6th Sweep Innovation and Excellence Awards worked close to home in developing their entry based on this year’s theme of "Empowering Communities through Wireless Technologies."

"We believe it was essential to identify a community and address a real problem," Engr. Justiniano Villocido, teacher-mentor of the champion team from Holy Name University in Tagbilaran in Bohol, said.

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The team composed of 5th year ECE students designed a "Water Supply Management Through Wireless Technology” system for Calape, Bohol where team leader Eldwin Shieldon Ytac resides.

Eldwin and group mates Gerald June Dagondon, Joseph Tabaranza, Wilmer Malanog, Johnry Daquipil and Gina Palomares met with Calape Vice Mayor Francisco Ruben D. Co and members of the Sangguniang Bayan.

They learned that some 25 cubic meters of water is lost due to leakage in the municipality’s piping system each day.

The team then developed a wireless technology solution that monitors the condition of water piping and enables immediate detection of leakages.

This is done with the use of sensors attached to the main pipelines that measure and monitor the pressure of water flow. These data including the possible location of a leakage as displayed in a Google Map of Calape’s pipe network are sent to a receiver (mobile phone) connected to the control panel (computer) where an operator can view the information.

"It is also able to automatically send water advisory to consumers thru SMS," said Gerald.

First runner-up Ateneo De Davao University (ADDU) came up with a Fish Density Detection System for the fishermen of Lianga Bay, a small-scale fishing community in Surigao del Sur, hometown of teacher-mentor Randell Espina.

A dialogue with the Barobo Fisherfolks and Fisher Vessel Operators Association (BAFFVOA) got them on track.

It has always been the practice of Lianga Bay's fishermen to take their boats out to sea at night in the hope of netting a good catch.

With the use of technology, 5th year ECE students Velvet Rose Oliva, Jade Kenneth Mausisa, and Arvyn Sumaoy devised a system that can detect the presence and density of fish from a base station on land.

"This will save the fisherfolk’s time, fuel, and food," team leader Velvet Rose said.

The Fish Density Detection System is equipped with a lighting device to attract fish and an ultra-sonic sensor which detects vibration caused by fishes within a defined range. Collected vibration is then picked up by the wireless transmitter and sent to the wireless receiver connected to a computer or base station on land.

The received data will be processed and analyzed to determine the current density of fish at the area. With the stored and processed data, a registered BAFFVOA member can be informed or can inquire through SMS about the density of fish at the catching point.

For Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU), this year’s second runner-up, it is Barangay Loyola Heights that gets to benefit from "Smart Bantay Barangay."

The team that consists of group leader Ace John Dimasuhid, Sherico Paulo Dela Cruz, Jan Michael Abuzo, Cuthbert Allan Guerrero, and teacher-mentor Rod Coronel, coordinated with barangay captain Cesar Marquez.

A website provides an avenue for residents to view the latest news, priority issues, and updates on actions made by concerned authorities in their barangay, join forum discussions, as well as post personal concerns. Using their mobile phones, they can capture an image, video or just plain SMS and send to the website URL. The system, which promotes an interactive wireless community, also allows subscribers to request updates on current issues or replies to their posts via SMS.

"Smart Bantay Barangay is up and running. We have so far 40 registered users. Feedback is positive," Ace said.

The top three winning teams were awarded cash prizes and equivalent grants for their schools -- P500,000 first prize to Holy Name University; P300,000 second prize to ADDU; and P150,000 third prize to ADMU.

This year's judging was chaired by Sixto Roxas, chair of Maximo T. Kalaw Institute for Sustainable Development. He urged Smart to continue encouraging schools to become ever more conscious of their strategic roles in developing local communities.

"In order to build the world economy, you have to have a world that is a community of sustainable and self-reliant local communities," he said.

This was seconded by Arlene Romasanta, Senior Science Research Specialist at the PCIERD (Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development)-Department of Science and Technology, who sat in the panel of judges both in the elimination and final rounds of the Awards. "Empowering citizens will make them feel important that they are part of the development of their community. This will later on have an impact on the country as a whole."

Completing the board of judges were Jason Tan of PSFK.com, a New York-based blog covering international trends in marketing, design and technology, and Smart's Jigs Suelto, Senior Manager of Network Services Assurance for Metro Manila NPSD, and Edmund Joson, Strategic Business Development Manager.

In another event, Wilmir Nicanor, 5th year ECE student from Bulacan State University, bested other contestants from Sweep partner schools to become this year's PalaECEpan champ. He received P40,000 in cash, a trophy and a cellular phone. The quiz bee was jointly hosted by Smart and the Institute of Electronic Engineers of the Philippines.

The Sweep Awards is held annually as part of the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program, an education initiative of Smart under its corporate social responsibility program Kabalikat.