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CpE students bag 4th place in Blue Hacks 2021

Article by: Kandhalvi Maidinshifwell-Asaali and Goven M. Barrera

Graphics by: Albert Dylan D. David

April 26, 2021

Out of 25 teams, a group of four computer engineering (CpE) students from the School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering placed fourth in this year’s Blue Hacks, an annual hackathon organized by the Computer Society of the Ateneo (CompSAt) from Ateneo de Manila University, held from April 8 to 11 via Zoom and Facebook Live.

During the four-day event, the teams from different colleges and universities each designed and developed an application aligned with the theme “Information Technology for Times of Crisis.” Team Sentinels – comprised of Claudee Khiarra R. Directo, Joshua Ron G. Garcia, Katreen Nicole A. Eisma, and Van Philip M. Panugan – presented Salba, an emergency response mobile application, at the hackathon.

Directo shared that the massive flooding in the Cagayan province caused by Typhoon Ulysses last year inspired the development of Salba. “They [rescuers and governing authorities] had a hard time responding because of lack of resources and particularly they don’t have communication with the residents. With that, residents even resorted to post to social media in order for their pleas to get noticed,” she said.

The Team Sentinels member added that their application is aimed to address the concerns and needs in times of disaster, particularly the loss of communication when calamities strike. “It’s important to re-establish communication – to disseminate facts, organize data, and fill the gaps in information,” she stated.

Thus, Salba was imbued with three main features: a mobile mesh networking, an interactive map, and a mission or found persons tracking report page.

Mobile mesh networking allows communication without an internet connection by functioning as a walkie-talkie PTT (push-to-talk) powered by Bluetooth within a 70-meter range. According to the team, a key advantage of this feature is its low power consumption on electronic devices.

Next, the interactive map shows information about the evacuation centers including the routes to available centers, building capacity of the site, the number of sheltered evacuees, space availability, and emergency hotlines. This was made possible by integrating Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) into Salba.

Lastly, the missing or found persons tracking report page serves as a location-tracking database for disaster victims. Through this feature, users can upload details about and photos of missing persons’ so that emergency responders can have immediate access to the consolidated information. 

According to Team Sentinels, they used Flutter and Dart as the programming language to develop the application. Meanwhile, they coded the user interface through Figma and the integrated development environment for Android using Android Studio.

Due to their hectic schedules, the team members said that they would like to focus on their academics, making an improvement of Salba as their second priority. However, the CpE students stated that if an opportunity to continue developing the application arises, they might continue optimizing the application and innovate it further.

They advise fellow Mapúans who are also interested in participating in hackathons to not solely aim for winning but to also aim for learning something new. “A hackathon is a competition, sure, but the learning process is way more important. Learn from different resources, learn and listen to your fellow group mates,” Directo imparted.

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