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July 6, 2017

ICS launches IoT Hackathon to discover student talent who can develop a UCI 'smart' campus

College campuses are increasingly becoming “smart” as they continue to slowly embrace and implement the Internet of Things (IoT). At UCI, it turns out the very forces behind future IoT scenarios are the students themselves.

The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) held its first IoT Hackathon June 2-4 as the first phase of a dual TIPPERS (Testbed for IoT-based Privacy-Preserving PERvasive Spaces) Challenge to discover the best student talent in the field. TIPPERS is part of the Brandeis DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) program that seeks to develop the technical means to protect the privacy of individuals and enterprises in an increasingly interconnected world. The project sits between two opposing points—privacy and data sharing—to enable a safe and predictable relationship.

“The IoT Hackathon was created with the goal of having students develop applications for a future UCI smart campus,” said Roberto Yus, the hackathon’s organizer who is a post-doctoral fellow working alongside Computer Science Professor Sharad Mehrotra on TIPPERS.

A smart campus would use a plethora of sensors to detect data on things such as temperature, people, places and devices. The TIPPERS program has been collecting data from Donald Bren Hall for more than a year; now that data pool is large enough to share with students in order for them to create IoT applications within the context of privacy.

“We stressed how you can design applications with ‘privacy by design’ and you don’t have to use more information than you should,” Yus said.

Funded by the ICS Dean’s Office, the inaugural IoT Hackathon attracted 30 students, a majority of them undergraduates, who were placed into seven teams for the competition. A jury panel made up of ICS faculty Sharad Mehrotra, Nalini Venkatasubramanian and Alfred Kobsa, as well as Liang Li of Newport Beach-based NxEco and UCI Postdoc Nishi Panwar selected the four teams to advance to the next phase in which they have one month to develop a prototype. From there, the best applications will be judged and each winning team will receive a $2,000 cash prize.

Congratulations to the following four advancing teams:

  • ZotBins – a waste management app that would monitor trash bins and help increase campus recycling. Team members: Owen Yang, Derek Feng, Joshua Cao and Marshall Nguyen.
  • Schedule Optimizer Assistant – an app for optimizing one’s daily agenda. Team members: Bronco, Frank, Jason and Tommy.
  • Office Hour Master – an app for coordinating office hours among students, faculty and the ICS department. Team members: Ao Li, Chen Lu and Shreya Chippagiri.
  • Study Room Finder – an app for finding available study rooms that allows the user to specify important qualities like quietness, internet connection and temperature. Team members: Luke Williams, Blake Wakasa and Shubham Mahajan.

“The students have done a remarkable job at taking our data—motion, light, temperature, energy consumption and Bluetooth tracking—to develop technology to protect and inform users,” said Yus.

TIPPERS expects to begin distributing the students’ finished applications inside Donald Bren Hall and around campus by November.

“It’s exciting for us,” said Yus. “The smart campus will open up possibilities for a lot of interesting and important services. We can imagine in some years sensors to detect available parking and apps to tell us where the shortest line for coffee will be. IoT will enable all of us to optimize our time.”

— Katherine Li Smith