UH Hilo students create app for hazards

Hilo team heading to Russia to compete in Imagine Cup

Published  5:30 PM HST Jul 06, 2013
HONOLULU -

A way for average citizens to become heroes by helping get the word out about hazards -- there's an app for that.

And the University of Hawaii at Hilo students who created the app are on their way to Russia to find out how their idea stands up against others around the world.

The app is called HELP ME HELP and it gives any smartphone users the ability to be the first to alert others of hazards as it happens.

"They take a picture of a hazard that they see and it would get uploaded to a server which then gets sent to other users on their device so they would get to see where the hazards are," said Wallace Hamada, Team Poli'ahu member.
What started as a class project by computer science students won the prestigious 2013 US Microsoft Imagine Cup Championships in San Jose, CA in May.

And it's getting praise from emergency agencies.

"Getting live or real time photographs as well as the geographic information -- the lat, long, addresses -- and then tagging it with a particular hazard identifier, would give us this tremendous information of what’s occurring in the community during and post of disaster. And then be able to quantify that so that we can address the resource needs in those areas," said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense director.

"Being able to see the incident as it’s evolving while we are still responding will give the incident commander valuable information to set up his action plan on how to mitigate that incident. Such things as the size of the fire or maybe the type of auto accident that is involved, how many patients that we may be having to respond to," said Hawaii County Fire Department chief Darren Rosario.

The team is now heading to St. Petersburg, Russia to compete in the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals this week.

"Yeah, I think we’re nervous, but I think we’re just so happy to get this far," said Mike Purvis, Team Poli'ahu member.

Up against 32 other teams from around the world, Team Poli'ahu has been brushing off their emotional jitters and brushing up on their public speaking skills, preparing to sell their app to the judges in a ten minute presentation in the Innovation category, the largest in the competition.

"The speech is going to be a little nerve wracking, but that's going to be on the first day and once we get that over with, we’ll be travelling and just talking with a bunch of really smart people and we’re all looking forward to that whether we win or not," said Purvis.

Hawaii will be front and center in the presentation, focusing on how the app is useful in our island natural disasters -- what the team feels gives them the edge in the competition.

"It’s an app that will actually impact a lot of people and could be really useful right now to a lot of people as natural disasters seem to be happening every few months," said Purvis.

There's a million dollars in cash and prizes at stake in this competition.

Whether they win or not, team members said they're planning for a career in computer science.

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