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CMU-A students continue their success at annual hacking competition

Posted 6th November 2020

An app to help older Australians receive medical support at home and a bushfire monitoring and warning system, developed by Carnegie Mellon University Australia (CMU-A) students, have received high praise at a top international competition.

The CareMate app and FireCloud tool were awarded runner-up and honourable mentions in several categories in the finals of the GovHack 2020 competition.

The annual event, which started in 2009, gives teams of competitors from across Australia and New Zealand 48 hours to use open government data to create innovative solutions to social, environmental and economic challenges. More than 1000 people took part in this year’s online-only competition, submitting 400 projects.

Teams were asked to develop projects to improve the recovery and resilience of communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters such as the recent Australian bushfires. Another aim of projects was to drive future policy decision making in these areas.

CMU-A Information Systems student and Plus61 team member Masoom Patel said the aim of the CareMate app was to provide vulnerable older Australians with personalised healthcare at home. This would allow them to stay safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the pressure on General Practitioners (GPs), residential aged care homes and hospitals.

Created using a range of healthcare, aged care, population and e-commerce data, CareMate relied on virtual GPs to conduct a preliminary online diagnosis of a patient. It could then make either an online or in-person follow-up appointment and allowed virtual GPs to write medical prescriptions which are delivered from a nearby pharmacy to a resident’s home.

Mr Patel said taking part in GovHack was a ‘really fruitful experience’ and that the tight deadline was both challenging and intriguing.

“The most important thing was that we only had two days to find relevant open datasets and connect it with the numerous ideas we had,” he said.

“It made me realise that ideating is extremely important rather than going head into anything which occurs in your mind.

“The most memorable experience was when we were just nearing our deadline and we had to upload the video and make a logo. I still remember everyone stepping in virtually and going back and forth with the video editing along to make sure the logo was as perfect as possible.

“We knew that the logo was not a game-changer, but I liked the way how everyone ensured that even the smallest of things should be as perfectly done, no matter how relevant its weightage is to the project.”

The other group members were Yixuan Guo, Alex Ma, Mike Ma, Ruoxuan Li, Chuchu Wu and Ahmad Al Hajji.

CMU-A student Merika DeLa Pena was part of Team FireTec, which developed the FireCloud tool. She applied the skills she has learnt in the Master of Science in Public Policy and Management to help turn data from the CSIRO and New South Wales State Government into a fire monitoring and broadcast system that local authorities and residents could use.

“As bushfires are expected to intensify in Australia in coming years, there is an urgent need for improved early fire detection, mapping and communication systems,” said Ms DeLa Pena.

“It should bring together new and existing technology to assist state and local government to manage fires better and co-ordinate their responses.”

With this in mind, FireCloud was designed to supplement existing satellite-based fire detection systems and ground-based remote sensing devices to detect and pinpoint the exact location of a fire within minutes. Information could be displayed on a dashboard managed by local fire authorities and available to residents via a mobile app.

FireCloud’s early-warning system used existing communications technology to broadcast emergency SMS alerts to mobile phones within a specific fire zone. The FireTec group members were Peter Francisco, Petra Gabriela, Darwin Soneja, and Merika (Mikki) De La Pena.

Associate Teaching Professor of Information Technology at CMU-A Murlikrishna Viswanathan congratulated the students on their strong GovHack results. He said the competition presented an excellent opportunity for the CMU-A cohort to form innovative collaborations that can deliver solutions to real-world problems and that this year’s results continue CMU-A's strong track history at the event.

“We encourage our students to embrace data challenges and competitions as opportunities to test their evolving data science skills and experience with ideas, data and new ways of working,” said Dr Viswanathan.

“GovHack also provided our students with a great platform to see how skills in data analytics, technology management and public policy can play a crucial role in advancing collective and timely response strategies to real-world challenges like COVID-19 and the Australian bushfires.”

In April, CMU-A launched a virtual initiative called Four Periscopes to provide alumni from around the globe with the opportunity to provide possible solutions to socio-economic challenges, including those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Team FireTec’s GovHack 2020 recognition for the FireCloud tool:

  • Runner Up - Data Driven IoT Insights for sustainable communities
  • Honourable Mention - Connecting our community in an emergency with mobile messaging
  • Honourable Mention - Data-driven decisions for improved disaster planning, management or recovery
  • Honourable Mention - Learning from the Past - sponsored by VIC Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Honourable Mention - South Australia People's Choice


Plus61’s GovHack 2020 recognition for CareMate:

  • Runner-up - Caring for the Aged in COVID Times category
  • Honourable Mention - Predicting Unusual and Unexpected Surges in Demand for Health Services

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