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MS students win Mobility Hackathon Chicago with “Feel Your City” platform

MS students pose with their 1st place “check”
Riccardo Pressiani presents Feel Your City

Five MS in Computer Science students won the top prize at Mobility Hackathon Chicago, sponsored by Bosch and KPMG. Their winning platform and device—which they named “Feel Your City”—can collect, visualize, and analyze data about air quality and noise pollution in major metropolitan areas. The idea is to put the sensor on public transportation vehicles, such as bikes, buses, and trains, to give us better information about conditions in the places where we live.

The students each won $1,000 and a three-month membership to the Chicago Connectory, an IoT incubator located in the Merchandise Mart.

The team had 26 continuous hours to come up with an idea and create a working prototype—a challenging task.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Riccardo Pressiani, MS ’19. “We started to think about how we move around Chicago. We’re students, so we use the CTA every day to commute to UIC and back home. The breakthrough happened when we put our skills on the table: what came out [included] sensors, IoT, cloud platforms, data analytics, machine learning, and data visualization. Putting everything together, we came up with Feel Your City.”

The team created machine-learning algorithms to extract useful information from the Feel Your City sensors in real time. The data can be provided to government officials, who can use it in their decision-making to improve the public experience of moving around the city.

Divvy bike fabricated with the Feel Your City device

“The most exciting thing about this project is the chance to actually use our skills to do something good for the city,” Pressiani said. “It was a great feeling to see how we could build something useful in such a short amount of time, doing what we do every day.”

This was not the team’s first hackathon, but it was their first top prize. They bested 11 other teams.

“We were the only team to physically build something during the event, so we were hoping to get at least one of the prizes,” Pressiani explained, but “we didn’t expect to see such an appreciation for our work from the judges.”

This is only the beginning for Feel Your City. “We would like to continue to work on this project and work with the people we met at the hackathon to go through our idea and understand if and what needs to be adjusted to make it an actual viable product,” Pressiani said.

Putting the victory aside, Pressiani is a big advocate for UIC computer science students attending hackathons.

“We strongly suggest to all our mates to try to join one of these events,” he said. “There are a ton of events like the one we did. Try to find the one that best matches your skills and just do it. Even if you don’t win, these events open you a lot of opportunities thanks to the networking that you can do.”