Purdue Fort Wayne students win TechPoint’s S.O.S. Challenge

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Of the nearly 500 college students who participated in this summer’s S.O.S. Challenge, two from Purdue University Fort Wane were members of a six-person team were chosen as the winning group.

The S.O.S. Challenge is a statewide competition that was designed to help replace summer internships that were lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Purdue Fort Wayne announced in a press release that the winning team members from Transportation Team Number 5 included Purdue Fort Wayne graduate students Ashik Devakumar and Sumadhuri Damerla. Both are from the College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science.

Devakumar, a mechanical engineering graduate student, served as the team’s project manager while Damerla, a graduate student in computer science, served as its software programmer.

The prize: $2,500 that is shared between the team members.

In addition to the prize money, the students also earned $500 stipends for participating in the competition.

For the challenge, teams were tasked with finding a solution to one of nine COVID-19 pandemic-related problems. All participants were divided into 90 teams according to their responses to questions about the various topics.

Each team then came up with a way to produce a solution to the given problem which included its production and distribution. The final task of the competition was to produce an online presentation for the judges. The three teams that were judged to have the best project solutions were sent to Gov. Holcomb for final review.

Transportation Team Number 5 was challenged to find a solution to ease air travelers’ concerns about contracting COVID-19 while waiting at TSA security checkpoints, according to the release.

“We noticed that passengers spend most of their time waiting at TSA queues, which would now be a potential hot spot for the spread of COVID-19,” Devakumar said. “After consulting with a few TSA officials, we realized their pain in maintaining social distancing protocol with passengers and therefore decided to focus on solutions that solve the long queues at TSA security checks.”

Their answer: an app titled NoQ.

NoQ allows users to prebook and reserve security slots online. This eliminates security queue times and easing the overall process for passengers and TSA agents.

The judges noted that the app had a promising future with relatively little tweaking.

“I am amazed at the quality of work that we were able to complete given the constraints,” noted Damerla. “I don’t think it would have been possible without our amazing coaches and the TechPoint team, who were very helpful.”

Did this challenge make up for the missed internships? Both say yes.

“This challenge is so much more than an internship. It really helps you to be creative and to turn your idea into a product. I think it pushes you to be your best,” said Damerla.

Devakumar added, “It is a great platform for students to expand their network, as you meet other students and working professionals from all over the state. This was also a good opportunity for me to utilize and hone my leadership and project management skills. I would rate it a 10 out of 10, as it was a great learning experience.”

The challenge was presented by TechPoint, a nonprofit growth accelerator for Indiana’s tech companies. Click on the links for more information on the S.O.S. Challenge or TechPoint

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