Mobile disaster collaboration and chat app tops IBM ?Hack-A-Superpower? tilt

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The local office of IBM has announced the winners of its hackathon for college students which it organized in collaboration with DevCon Philippines, the largest community of developers in the country, and cosplay organizer NexCon 3.

The APC team with IBM's Tom Wagan (left) and Cyberpress president TJ Dimacali (right)
The APC team with IBM’s Tom Wagan (left) and Cyberpress president TJ Dimacali (right)

?Hack-A-Superpower? features a sci-fi theme that tackles disaster preparedness, response, and recovery during a possible alien spaceship crash. College students were expected to build an app that would address the scenario with the aim of saving lives.

To further enhance the hackathon experience, participants used Bluemix, IBM?s open-standards and cloud-based platform that boasts access to Watson services or APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

Watson is IBM?s famed cognitive system which can be operated using natural language powered by deep machine learning and can provide insights based on reasoning and hypothesis using unstructured data. The system was introduced to the public in 2011 when it beat the two reigning champions of the popular quiz show, Jeopardy. Watson is now being used in data-intensive areas such as cancer treatment, law, finance, weather prediction, and hospitality.

Student participants, composed of 10 teams, underwent a workshop on March 30 to learn how to use Bluemix and Watson services. They were given until April 2 to develop a disaster response app or around 72 hours to complete a working prototype.

On the morning of April 3, each team presented their app to a panel of judges composed of representatives from IBM, Cyberpress, DevCon, and NexCon. Judges were Bryan Bibat, president, Developers Connect Philippines (DevCon); Adrian Arcega, co-organizer of NexCon; TJ Dimacali, Science & Technology editor of GMA News Online and president of Cyberpress (IT Journalists Association of the Philippines); Dr. Jay Sabido, R&D Executive at IBM Philippines, and Lope Doromal, chief technologist at IBM Philippines.

Students, within the duration of the hackathon, received mentorship from DevCon volunteers and IBM employees.

Students from Asia Pacific College (APC) bagged the grand prize with their disaster collaboration and chat app called “Flash Tap”. It provides chat interface accessible to the public and responding agencies to efficiently communicate for disaster coordination. It uses geolocation data to identify the location of chat participants in case of a rescue. Disaster preparedness is addressed through a function that consolidates social media feeds related to a calamity. ?Team RAMS? from APC is composed of first year Computer Science students Yesha Alfafara, Marc Adrian Jimenez, and Marc Anthony Nares.

First runner-up winners were from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Taguig. Known as ?Team Overknights?, the students created the ?GeoData? app which maps events during a disaster and provides SMS notification to relevant individuals and groups. It can also show information on the nearest evacuation sites based on GPS tracking. PUP-Taguig representatives were composed of 4th year BSIT students Ibrahem Sotejo, Renielle Carpio, and Justin Sanorjo.

Second runner-up winners were from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Known as ?Team Tomas?, they created an app called ?Helplinator? which features prevention and rescue functions using the natural langue processing of Watson. Users can chat with Watson to identify the nearest institutions (hospitals, evacuation sites, fire station, etc.) depending on the type of emergency. Its ?personal health? feature provides emergency responders a preview of a victims condition prior to rescue or assistance. UST representatives were Joanouh Nathaniel Abonador, 3rd year Information Systems student, and Tricia Jasmine Moreno, 2nd year Computer Science student.

The top three winning teams pitched their apps and were awarded in the main hall of NexCon 3.

Other participants of the hackathon were from STI College, Adamson University, Far Eastern University, Technological University of the Philippines, Jose Rizal University, and National University.

Prior the pitching competition, Luis Pineda, president and country general Manager of IBM Philippines, gave a motivational talk to the student participants by sharing his early days in IBM as a developer and programmer.

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