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There was both an international and a local flavor to the first Tech-Prize Smart City App Development contest held Saturday at Gateway Technical College’s Racine campus.

Students from Ireland and India took the top individual prizes, a $2,000 scholarship to Gateway.

Teams from Case High School and UW Parkside took two of the three team prizes. The Case team each won $3,000 in Parkside scholarships for second place. The Parkside team won $2,000 each in Parkside scholarships for third place.

The competition was sponsored by Tech-Prize and Visioning a Greater Racine. Gateway and Parkside provided scholarships.

The top contestants were Vagif Aliyev and Neri Carcasci from Ireland, who won one of the two individual prizes and also took top honors in the team competition.

They have developed an App that scans textbooks to create flashcards that help students study. Judges of the competition commented on the numerous commercial possibilities for the App, from flashcards for legal and medical students, to cards that would help people study for professional certifications.

Aliyev said his App already has 700 active users who are using it to create flashcards regularly.

The other top individual price went to a 12-year-old Sixth grade student from India

Krishna Raghavend has developed an App that will help connect help givers with people who need help, particularly following a natural disaster.

Raghavend said his App came from personal experience, when his town was devastated by a Tsunami.

“I saw many people suffering so much so I developed my App,” he said.

Calling themselves The Dream Team, five students from Case presented an App that will provide equal access to job opportunities, internships, scholarships and volunteer opportunities.  The group said they were motivated by the fact many people are unaware of what was available to them They said their app would level the playing field and create greater equality of opportunity.

“Racine offers tons of opportunities,” said team member Robert Barkley. “Unfortunately depending on which school you go to or where you live, you may not have access to these opportunities.”

The four-person team from UW Parkside developed an App that will provide indoor navigation. For instance, a student could load course schedule, and get directions to their classes. They started with the Parkside campus, but said the app could be used by any large government or business facility to help people get around.

Team member Sager Alarifi said one advantage of their app was “when you go with a solution like Google Map, Google controls it.” With their app control belongs to the facility and changes can be made rapidly.

All teams presented their ideas virtually to judges, Tech Prize volunteers, UW Parkside Vice Chancellor Robert Ducoffe and representatives from Racine Unified School District.  Gateway President Bryan Albrecht and Racine Mayor Corey Mason attended virtually and talked with the students.

Albrecht said he was impressed by the quality of the ideas presented. He told contestants they had put themselves on a path for success just by participating in the App competition. “That alone is a blue ribbon,” he said.

Mason cited Racine’s history as “Invention City” when there were more patents per capita than any other city in the US. He said the students represented the future of innovation, “putting forth ideas that tomorrow could change the world.”

The Tech-Prize group grew out of VGR’s Thriving Economy WAVE team, created after over 1,400 Racine residents shared their ideas on what would transform the greater Racine community. It is modeled after an Art Prize competition that is credited with helping transform Grand Rapids Michigan

Tech Prize Co-Chair Tony Bigonia said the group has been working on Tech Prize for three years. Despite the challenge of COVID, “We’re still going, going strong, with an awesome group of people,” he said. “We need to have a transformation project that will bring Racine back to Innovation City.”

The APP competition is the first event that will culminate in a week-long of series Tech Prize events Sept. 10-18. They include:

  1. Idea Competition – Participants will present ideas and have them in the various downtown locations, compete for prizes, and the ability to get mentoring to launch those ideas. 
  2. Codeathon –a continuous competition will take place over a 30-hour period where teams of people will develop a coding solution to a problem or opportunity. 
  3. Pitch Competition – Teams will be given the opportunity to pitch their ideas for funding to a participating group of VC and Angel Investors.  There will be a competition for the best “Pitch”. 
  4. Tech-Shops:  “Hands-on” sessions where students and adults can try things they may be interested in.  The topics will be broken into two groups.  The group that “Makes things” will include: Robotics, CNC, 3D Printing, Artificial Intelligence, Industry 4.0 processes, etc.  The group that is focused on Technology will include: Coding, Network and system development, Cyber Security, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence.
  5. Biz-Shops:  This is an educational series that brings the “Special Sauce” things that people learn out in the world of work Panel presentations are created to introduce and discuss how individuals can:  1. Create Ideas, 2. Protect Ideas, 3. Evaluate what to do with the idea, 4. Launch the idea, 5. Scale and Market the idea.