DEV Community

Cover image for Imagine Cup World Champions 2021
Sonia Lomo for Microsoft Student Ambassadors - Kenya

Posted on • Updated on

Imagine Cup World Champions 2021

The Imagine Cup World Champions are a team of 4 members from United States International University - Africa. All Computer Science Finalists:

They created REWEBA - remote well-baby. A remote infant monitoring system, which incorporates use of Internet of Things and Machine Learning.

Consolata: What is REWEBA about?

Khushi: REWEBA in full is Remote Well-Baby. It's an IOT device that helps mothers monitor their babies. It acts as an alarm system.

Consolata: How did you get into tech?

Khushi: My interest in tech sparked when I was young and it grew throughout my high school life. I always knew that computers were my thing.

Jeet: I grew up with tech around me. In my early days in high school, I started developing websites and apps. I knew what I wanted to do after high school. I've been growing since then.

Abdi: My story is the same as Jeet's. My interest in tech began in high school and persisted through to my university education.

Consolata: How did you get into Imagine Cup?

Abdi: We stumbled into Imagine Cup because of a friend. We had already began building the project before that. We got a chance to showcase our project through Imagine Cup.

Consolata: How did you settle on REWEBA as your Imagine Cup project?

Khushi: When applying to Imagine Cup, we had a couple of projects in mind. Imagine Cup is all about the potential impact of the project and how it can be inclusive for everyone and REWEBA made that judging criteria.

Reweba Baby

Consolata: Why did you venture into babies' Health Care?

Khushi: We happened to take a community service class together. We went to a local hospital to do the same.

When doing community service in that hospital, we realized how mothers, especially who live in the rural areas, have to walk long distances every month to get their newborns screened. This is the normal testing that is done every month to monitor the baby's development.

It was really difficult for the mothers to walk the long distances to get access to medical facilities and good doctors. When we did more research, we found out that this is one of the main causes of the high infant mortality rates in Kenya and throughout Africa. We got drawn to that pressing problem and thought that we could remedy it.

Consolata: How was the Imagine Cup application process like?

Khushi: Just so you know, Imagine Cup 2022 application submissions are open.

Our application process started around September - at that time, the deadline was in December. That was the initial process where you have to submit a report, the actual working software and a three minute pitch video.

We had a great mentor from USIU, Dr. Leah Mutanu, who helped us a lot. Her expertise helped us with problems like drafting the reports. Nonetheless, if you know your project well, I don't think you will face that many challenges.

I think the biggest challenge for us was the three minute pitch in the start because you are passionate about your project. You want to say everything you know and that could appeal, but you only have three minutes. We had to squeeze everything in three minutes.

Consolata: How did Microsoft assist you to get to the World Championships?

Khushi: Essentially there were four rounds in the judging process.

The first round was the online semifinals that we submitted in December. We were required to report our software documentation and the pitch. There were hundreds of teams from all around but they only chose 42. We were informed about our qualification around January.

The next round was to choose the top 12 out of the 42 in March. There were 4 categories and they chose three teams for each category.

Then from every category, they only chose one team on April. Lastly, the remaining 4 teams competed for the world championship in May.

For the second and third round, we got mentorship from Microsoft employees, which really helped us get our pitch together.
Team Reweba

Consolata: Did Microsoft supply any equipment you needed to build REWEBA?

Khushi: Microsoft was very considerate, they didn't necessarily provide us with hardware parts for REWEBA. However, if you qualified through round 2 or round 3, you got Azure Credits.

We were allocated a boardroom from USIU but it had poor lighting. Microsoft sent us lighting equipment since the events were online. Proper lighting was vital. And it was online. It's all about turning on your video and you should have proper lighting and all that.

Consolata: How did you guys manage time between school and the competition?

Khushi: For me, it was all about planning. Having your schedule and tasks you want to accomplish in mind, in the morning and feeling satisfied after accomplishing everything by night - was my motto.

Jeet: I used to have classes almost every day. I created a proper timetable of what I needed to do and what's supposed to be done every week. I also made sure that I had regular meetings with my team members to discuss our progress.

We really came together. We met physically to build the IOT device and divided the software workload among ourselves to try work on it from home.

Abdi: It all circles back to wise time management. If you manage your time properly, you'll be able to complete all the tasks for a specific day. If not, you can just get extra time off of your free time to cover the rest.

Consolata: Have you ever participated in another hackathon before?

Khushi: We have participated in a three day hackathon organized by USIU. That's where we started building our project.

We participated in the Dell Technologies Envision the Future competition and won first place. It had about 4 or 5 rounds which took almost an year. As we went through these competitions, we tried to make REWEBA even better. We've had several iterations and our project has improved drastically.

Consolata: What would you advise someone who wants to participate in their first hackathon?

Abdi: The first step is to find a team or a person with the same passion as you if possible.

Many competitions require at least a minimum of two to three people. Find a competition or a small hackathon to participate in and see how your idea will be received.

Another critical step is to find a mentor. Preferably a suitable lecturer since you are university students. They'll help you in terms of planning and correcting you before you even pitch your idea to others.

Also believe in yourself. You never know how things will go. Who knows, it might be the next million dollar idea. Keep pushing.

Jeet: Try to also have a general knowledge on the technology you'll use.

Consolata: What challenges did you faced during the Imagine Cup Competition?

Khushi: The first challenge we faced was the whole COVID pandemic. Our device was actually kept in the hardware lab in our university. That was because we used some equipment from the university, so we weren't really allowed to take it home. We had to find ways of getting into the university - despite the restrictions - and work on it.

The second challenge was getting sensors. All of the sensors that were used in our device were not from Kenya, we had to import them. This presented more difficulties with time and finances. We also had to look for sensors that could be integrated together.

Jeet: We only had 3 minutes present our pitch. Trying to cramp everything under that time period was a bit challenging.

Consolata: What opportunities did your participation in Imagine Cup give you?

Khushi: We got a lot of recognition. at a global level. We even have mentorship sessions with the CEO of Microsoft - Satya Nadella.

Jeet: More companies that are trying to work with us. Hopefully in the future, we only get to make this project something better than it is right now.

Abdi: We've gotten a lot of networking opportunities as well. We just need to take advantage of that.

Consolata: Are you planning to turn your product into a start-up?

Khushi: Of course. We do have plans to turn this into a startup and we're working towards that. We're already looking for appropriate stakeholders or partners.

Abdi: We're still working on stuff like patenting. For an IOT device these are a lot of stuff to consider such as the security and privacy. We're just sorting out these few kinks.
Team Reweba on a virtual call

Consolata: Did any of you have a medical background?

Khushi: All of us have an IT background, . No one has a medicine background. But we got to know about this problem because of the community service we did. This was just a technical solution. So we did not have to research much about the medical part of it. Furthermore, doctors will still come in to check for how healthy the baby is.

Abdi: We consulted our school doctor and took her through the solution. We used her knowledge and expertise to go through the entire process of the product. We still had her expertise as a guide when making the product for the babies.

Jeet: We got feedback from doctors at the USIU medical center. We also had some professors who teach medicine there. We met with some of them and we told them about our idea. They really give us invaluable feedback.

Consolata: How did you settle on the tech that you used for your project?

Jeet: When we started out this project, we didn't really use Azure. But once we started progressing we had to use Azure as a requirement for the competition. That was a bit difficult because we were not really used to it. It had a bit of a learning curve. But they have really extensive courses on their website.

When watching those videos, we got to know what we need to use, what we can use and how it was better than what we had. Some of the technologies from Azure IOT hub that we used were Azure app service, Azure customers, DB Asia and DevOps.

We used Twilio to communicate to mothers using SMS. For the AME we used Azure custom vision, which came in handy. It doesn't need code. It just requires images to be trained with.

For the backend, we used Express and our IDE was VS Code. For the IOT side, we basically went with the raspberry PI. Those were some of the technologies that we used during Imagine Cup.

Consolata: Khushi, how does it feel to be the only lady in the team?

Khushi: I must say the experience is amazing especially with teammates I have. They are always by my side. They never make me feel like I am the "only girl". Everyone is considerate of each other and the team.

Consolata: What's your advice to ladies getting into tech?

Khushi: Nowadays, female techies are increasing. Companies like Google, IBM, Microsoft, are all trying to encourage women in the field of technology. This field is no longer only for men. I think women can also make a great impact in it. And there are also many events like the Grace Hopper conference, held annually only for women.

So, you know, there are many opportunities out there that are trying to encourage and empower women in this field. Women should take advantage of these opportunities. I encourage all the women out there to get out of their comfort zone.

In Conclusion

It was an honor to have Team Reweba share their experience on our Imagine Cup Building Series. Follow them on twitter @reweba You can get the full interview video on our YouTube channel:

Please share your feedback on this interview. Reach out to us if you'd like us to interview a team of your liking next!

Top comments (0)