UH Hilo captures Microsoft academic national championship

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Date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

A student team from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo recently won the prestigious 2013 U.S. Microsoft Imagine Cup Championship held in San Jose, California. The team now heads to St. Petersburg, Russia for the Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals in July.

Imagine Cup is Microsoft’s premier student technology competition that honors technology innovations addressing the world’s toughest problems as student innovators from around the world use Microsoft resources to take their one-of- a-kind, ground breaking application ideas from concept to the marketplace. The national finals featured the top 10 U.S. teams pitching their ideas and solutions to investors, entrepreneurs, and technology professionals for a chance to win cash prizes and support for their businesses.

UH Hilo’s Team Poliahu, comprised of seniors Mike Purvis, Kayton Summers, Wallace Hamada and junior Ryder Donahue from the UH Hilo Computer Science Department, topped the field of competition with their application entitled “Help Me Help,” which focused on community help for disaster relief efforts. 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 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,” said Purvis. “So we decided to rewrite our entire idea for disaster response.”

Team Adviser Dr. Keith Edwards, associate professor, computer science, said the student’s achievement is evidence of what hard work and creative thinking can accomplish.

“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. “The success achieved by these students is a perfect representation of how the tremendous creative possibilities at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo can have a worldwide impact.”


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