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UH-Hilo Wins US Tech Competition, Trip to Finals in Russia

Posted May 15, 2013, 03:34 PM HST Updated May 15, 2013, 04:36 PM HST
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Team Poliahu advisor and computer science professor Keith Edwards, center, is flanked by team members (from left) Ryder Donahue, Mike Purvis, Wallace Hamada and Kayton Summers. Courtesy photo.

A team of student computer programmers from the University of Hawaii at Hilo has won first place in the 2013 US Microsoft Imagine Cup Championship.

The Imagine Cup competition honors technological innovation in the creation of applications using Microsoft resources to address world problems.

At Monday’s US final in San Jose, Calif., the top 10 teams pitched their ideas and solutions to investors, entrepreneurs and technology professionals.

Team Poliahu from UH-Hilo came out on top with its application “Help Me Help,” which focused on community aid for disaster relief efforts.

According to a statement from the university, the program aids the community and emergency response personnel in disaster situations by allowing users to upload images of nearby hazards through the use of smart phones.

Team Captain Mike Purvis said the idea grew out of a senior project to design software that could track native and invasive plant species.

“We realized tracking that kind of information could be applied to a larger scale with more impact,” Purvis said. “So we decided to rewrite our entire idea for disaster response.”

Purvis, who is a senior, was joined on the team by fellow seniors Kayton Summers and Wallace Hamada, and junior Ryder Donahue.

The team’s advisor is Keith Edwards, an associate professor in the UH-Hilo computer science department.

“As a professor, I am always the most pleased when students are able to transcend the material taught in the classroom to develop knowledge and capabilities beyond what is presently known,” Edwards said in the statement.

“The success achieved by these students is a perfect representation of how the tremendous creative possibilities at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo can have a worldwide impact,” Edwards said.

The UH-Hilo entry beat out finalists from the universities of Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas, Chicago and Florida State as well as Harvard, Rice and Boston universities.

Team Poliahu will represent the US in the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals to be held in St. Petersburg, Russia from July 8-11.

A member of the 2012 worldwide Imagine Cup champion team from the Ukraine demonstrates the winning application during the finals held last year in Australia. Microsoft photo.

A member of the 2012 worldwide Imagine Cup champion team from the Ukraine demonstrates the winning application during the finals held last year in Australia. Microsoft photo.

As a worldwide finalist, Team Poliahu will also have the opportunity to apply for Microsoft Imagine Cup Grants as part of a three-year, $3 million investment by Microsoft to help students turn their ideas into reality.

The winner of last year’s Worldwide Imagine Cup was Team quadSquad from the Ukraine. Its winning project was Enable Talk, which transformed sign language into speech using sensor-quipped gloves and a mobile device.

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