Convergence Innovation Competition Winners Announced

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It was another great semester of student invention and innovation in the Spring 2017 Convergence Innovation Competition (CIC). The competition wrapped up on April 11th with a live demo and judging event for finalists hosted by IPaT and the Georgia Tech Research Network Operations Center (GT-RNOC). More than two dozen teams and 120 students participated in this semester’s CIC.


Technology for Social Good

Two of the winning CIC projects use the power of technology to create social change. Food for Thought is an app that connects businesses, non-profits, schools and individuals that have excess edible food to those who need it. App users have the option to either share, transport or request food, and can add images to their posts. “Brownie points” gamify the app and create a feel-good factor around sharing.

Approximately 40-percent of food in the U.S. is never eaten, making this country the world’s largest food waster. “You assume that because this is a first-world country, there’s enough food,” said Meghna Natraj, Georgia Tech master’s student in Computer Science. “Food’s being wasted; it’s not being channeled to the right sources.”

The Food for Thought team aims to have a final version finished by the end of April.

Another winning project in the same category uses technology to address gentrification of the area surrounding the Atlanta Beltline. “Concerns about creating a discriminatory environment, rather than universally-available resources are growing,” explained the team in their submission video.

The Beltline Display project envisions interactive experiences along the Beltline to promote connected and walkable communities. Utilizing big data, the team proposes creating technology-focused art pieces along the trail to educate users about their surroundings, neighbors and history of the area. The team’s goals are to promote social change, foster curiosity, and connect Atlanta communities.


Real-Time Information for Transit and More

It’s been nearly a month since fire engulfed part of I-85 causing it to collapse, and the Georgia Department of Transportation says it could take at least another seven weeks to repair the damage. In the meantime, commuters are exploring alternative means of transportation. The developers of MARTAnow say their app is the perfect use case for solving transit problems.

Even before the I-85 collapse, the team behind MARTAnow has been researching why some commuters are reluctant to use MARTA. They’re also trying to solve a larger issue in public transit called the first-mile/last-mile problem – getting people from their location to the bus stop, and from the bus stop to their final location.

“A bridge collapses and all of a sudden, hundreds of thousands of people can’t get to where they need to go,” said Amit Garg, Georgia Tech master’s student in Human-Computer Interaction. “Using our app, people can visualize other modes of transportation to get to their final destination, whether that’s ridesharing, through renting a bike, or using MARTA trains and buses.”

MARTAnow combines real-time MARTA schedules, walkability scores, and ridesharing into one easy-to-use transit app. MARTA is now working with Garg and his teammates to integrate the app into its ecosystem.

While they may not be working to solve something as complicated as transit issues, the creators of NowWhat are working to answer a question important to students – where’s the party?

“All of us Tech students have had this problem at one time or another,” explained Ryan Brooks, Georgia Tech Computer Science student.

NowWhat is a map interface app that allows you to see events happening around you in real time, get rides to those events, and see friends’ current locations. Information from different event sources is gathered in one app for ease of use.

“We’ve never had that one central location, to see on a map how far away something is and being able to visualize it in that way,” said Brooks.

The team will soon work on developing the app for iOS and Android.

Enhancing Medical Intervention

As many as 40% of people with autism never speak or have difficulty communicating verbally. Rapid Prompting Method, or RPM, was developed by a mother who wanted to teach her non-verbal autistic son to express himself. A group of Georgia Tech students has now found a way to enhance RPM using real-time data.

The process of RPM is simple: a teacher gives a short lesson on a topic, asks a question and then elicits a response using verbal, auditory, or visual prompts. The child will answer based on the teacher’s question by spelling out the letters written on a letterboard. The CIC project Responsive Letterboard for Autism Spectrum Disorder reinvents the board. When the child presses a letter, their selection is transferred to a web user interface in real time. This method allows teachers and clinicians to view the data, track a child’s progress and make improvements.

The team was inspired by their professor, Gregory Abowd, who has an autistic son. “That community of parents and technicians are really positive and helpful and they’re engaged in our research,” said Fereshteh Shahmiri, Georgia Tech Ph.D. student in Design Computing.

April is Autism Awareness Month.

One of the greatest threats to patient safety during an operation is surgical site infection. According to the CDC, in 2011 approximately 157,500 acute care hospital patients were diagnosed with infections.

“Healthcare professionals try their best to prevent this type of infection, but the increasing mortality of surgical site infections has forced professionals to consider every possible way in which the surgical environment can be controlled,” said Luka Antolic-Soban, Georgia Tech Computer Science student.

ORCA, or Operating Room Computer Asepsis System, is designed to help operating room professionals detect and prevent contamination during operations. The system has two components. One is a belt that goes underneath surgical scrubs to alert operating room staff when they violate protocol. The other uses a camera and infrared sensor to collect information about the operating room environment, such as the distance between personnel.

The ORCA team is collaborating with Emory University School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Atlanta to test the system. They've also been invited to participate in Georgia Tech's Startup Launch (formerly Startup Summer), a faculty-led, student-focused program to help student teams launch their startups.

Following the competition, teams are leveraging the feedback received and contacts made during the course of working on their CIC projects and showcasing them at the live judging event. They are debugging their apps, incorporating enhancements, pursuing partnerships, and learning more about entrepreneurship. This semester’s CIC categories were aligned with IPaT’s research priorities; here’s a full list of winning projects and teams:

Lifelong Health and Wellbeing
1st place – Operating Room Computer Asepsis System (ORCA)
Team: Luka Antolic-Soban, Jianming Zeng

2nd place – Responsive Letterboard for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Team: Anisha Bhandari, Geunbae Lee, Fereshteh Shahmiri, Vedant Das Swain

Smart Cities and Healthy Communities
1st place – NowWhat
Team: Ryan Brooks, Joan Chen, Will Christian, Aaron Parry, Brandi Van de Houten

2nd place – MARTAnow
Team: Vishal Bhatnagar, Prasenjeet Biswal, Amit Garg, Samyukta Sherugar

Socio-Technical Systems and Human-Technology Frontier Innovation
1st place – Food for Thought
Team: Akshay Agarwal, Luka Antolic-Soban, Satyajeet Gawas, Meghna Natraj

2nd place – Beltline Display
Team: Aparna Iyer, Jayanth Krishna, Meghana Melkote, Caity Taylor, Eric Thompson

VIEW: More photos from the Spring 2017 Convergence Innovation Competition

The CIC is a semester-long event dedicated to helping students create innovative and viable products and experiences with the support of campus resources and industry guidance. The competition is open to Georgia Tech students from every class and discipline. To learn more, or to find about partnership opportunities, visit


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Alyson Key
  • Created:04/27/2017
  • Modified By:Alyson Key
  • Modified:10/07/2019