SICE grad students take home honors at US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities Reverse Pitch Challenge


Two graduate students from the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering took home top honors in their category at a recent hackathon sponsored by the Midwest Big Data Hub, the University of Illinois, the City of Champaign, and HackIllinois.

Gaurav Derasaria, who is pursuing a master’s in data science, and Aniket Shenoy, a graduate student in computer science, earned first place at the US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities Reverse Pitch Challenge. The event focused on the use of open municipal data to improve the efficiency of city services and to enhance city climate monitoring capabilities. Local businesses, city governments, and civic organizations pitched their problem statements to the group of students, developers, and citizens who then offered their solutions.

Derasaria and Shenoy tackled the challenge of improving the efficiency of city services through data visualization and analysis. The duo cleaned the data and used new tools to create an interactive visualization of service requests.

“The competition was a great learning experience not only in terms of applying skills that I have picked up along my master’s program but also in terms of pitching and presenting a project,” Shenoy said. “I got my hands dirty with real-world data and gained exposure to working with geospatial data. The Hackathon also gave me a sense of how to put together a project in restricted time constraints, given a 36-hour period. It was inspiring to interact with mentors from the Open Source world and contribute to the Social Good domain through the project.”

Derasaria and Shenoy were invited to expand their project to predict the allocation of resources and optimize city service requests from across different regions.

“We’re extremely proud of our students’ ability to quickly and clearly showcase their innovative thinking to provide solutions that could lead to a change in the real world,” said Raj Acharya, dean of SICE. “Gaurav and Aniket showed the power of data visualization to create opportunities to improve the way municipalities utilize their limited resource to make the maximum impact.”

More than 1,000 students from across the Midwest attended the event, which also included a challenge to monitor micro climate change in Champaign, and Derasraia and Shenoy’s project “Geospatial Analysis of Open Municipal Data” was selected from more than 100 final project submissions.

“Hacking at the competition was a memorable experience,” Derasaria said. The competition gave us an excellent opportunity to test our skills against our peers. The competition not only challenged our visualization and coding skills, but also our imagination.”

Indiana University is part of the Midwest Big Data Hub (MBDH), a network of partners interested in investing in data and data sciences to address challenges for society and science. A grant from the National Science Foundation funds IU’s participation in MBDH.

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