Over the weekend we saw the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors unfold. In case you’re lost, the Yarl Geek Challenge Juniors is a hackathon conducted by the Yarl IT Hub. This is one of their many initiatives among others in their mission to make Jaffna the next Silicon Valley. This hackathon is primarily aimed at school students and is conducted in association with the Northern Ministry of Education.
Over 120 teams applied from all corners of the Northern Province. Ultimately, 30 teams were selected to compete at the Grand Finale in Jaffna. Here they took part in three categories. These categories were: mobile applications, hardware devices, and web applications. These are the ideas we found at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors.
The teams in this category were tasked with building a mobile app. The only requirement was that the students had to ensure the app was solving an issue that exists in their local communities.
The first team we saw in this category was from Mallavi Central College. They had built a mobile app that aimed to help people order food online. As one would expect, the app featured the menus of restaurants and allowed you to place orders online. After placing your order, the food would be delivered to your doorstep.
The second team we saw was from Puthukkudiyiruppu Central College. They too had designed a similar app as the previous team. This was an app that delivered groceries from supermarkets rather than food from restaurants. The team had built this app in response to long wait times at supermarkets.
The next team we saw was from Mallavi Central College. They had chosen to tackle the challenge of helping the visual impaired utilize smartphones. The team stated that currently, the assistance available to visually impaired persons to utilize technology is limited.
Even to navigate a website can be challenging. That’s why they had designed an app aimed at connecting visually impaired people with volunteers. These volunteers would then help the visually impaired person navigate a website.
Since time immemorial, students from all classes have been experts at procrastination. To encourage students to study, a team from Jaffna College built a mobile app called BLISCA. The goal of this app is to encourage students to learn and revise what they studied at school. Interestingly, the app is now available on the Play Store if you want to try it out.
The final team we saw in this category was from Jaffna Hindu College. They had built an app that allows you to convert measurements. The team highlighted an example of visiting the hardware shop and confusions arise between converting from feet to centimeters. While handy, this is also something that you can easily do on Google.
The teams in this category were tasked with building devices. To do so, they were given components such as Arduino’s and Raspberry Pi’s. The goal here was to build devices that solved daily issues faced by the community.
The first team we saw in this category was from Hartley College. They had presented a collection of devices for the concept for a smart city. One of these devices was for automated street lights that activate at night. Furthermore, they had also designed a camera to identify speeding vehicles and an automated watering system for gardens.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know how dangerous a gas leak can be. If you’re lucky, you can recognize the smell and prevent a disaster. But not everyone is lucky every day. Thus, a young girl from Vembadi Girls High School designed a device to detect gas leaks. The device works in conjunction with an app to alert you of any gas leaks and if your gas cylinder is almost empty.
Drunk drivers present a serious issue that people face across the world. This is the problem a team from Methodist Girls College, Point Pedro decided to tackle. They built a device that prevents a drunk driver from entering their car.
To those of us who care about the environment, seeing people throw their garbage on the street when a dustbin is close by is frustrating. Seeing this, a team at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors had designed a garbage bin. If it detects a person within 20cm then the bin would automatically open itself for a person to throw their garbage in.
Fires are deadly and spread quickly. You might think a fire extinguisher will keep you safe. But that’s only if you can reach it. This is why a student from Mankulam Maha Vidyalayam designed a robot to extinguish fires. In the event it can’t extinguish the fire then it would automatically call the fire brigade.
At the time of writing, the postal service is currently on strike. Of course, even when the postman resumes his route, some of you might not regularly check your mailbox. Of course, you don’t want to miss any bills or packages. To ensure this doesn’t happen, a team from Methodist College designed a device for this. The device would send an alert to your phone whenever a letter is inserted into your mailbox.
The next team we saw was from Karainagar Hindu College. They had designed a Smart School System. What it does is manage the electricity consumed by the school. To do so, it constantly monitors the environment and controls when the fans and lights would be activated. Additionally, it also comes with an automated fire extinguisher.
Marking attendance is a hassle at school for both students and teachers. In order to make it simpler, this team at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors built a device. It operates similarly to a fingerprint scanner where students are given tags. These tags are then scanned to mark the attendance of each student.
Just like the smart school system we saw previously, this team from Jaffna College had designed a smart home system. As one would expect, it would automatically control the lights and fans. The system would ensure lights and fans are only used when people are in the rooms and turn them off otherwise. Furthermore, the system also allows the user to control their appliances from any location.
For a visually impaired person, the act of crossing a road or simply walking around can be challenging. Understanding this, a team from Jaffna Hindu College had designed a special shoe. This shoe aims to act as a navigator for visually impaired individuals. It would do so by passing voice messages and guiding the person as they walk.
As we saw previously with the Gas Guardian project, there is a real danger from gas leaks. This was another project we saw at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 that addressed this problem. This project too is a device designed to detect gas leaks. If a leak is detected, then the device sends an SMS or a phone call with an alert.
One of the youngest teams we saw at this year’s Yarl Geek Challenge Juniors presented a project to clean fish tanks. Their system would work by utilizing the plants and soil in the fish tank itself. To be precise, the water in the tank would be sent into a filter utilizing the soil and plants to purify the water.
The second youngest team at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors presented an idea named e-Nurse. This is a device that aims to remind patients to take their medicines. The device works by setting alarms for when a person needs to take their medicines. Additionally, it also features SMS alerts and a security system to prevent others from tampering with the medicine.
There is an ongoing crisis between humans and elephants in Sri Lanka. Many of these clashes take place at farms. As such, a team from Vavuniya Tamil Mathiya Maha VIdyalayam designed a solution to keep elephants away from farms. They designed a device that would detect elephants and emit bee-buzzing noise. They designed the device this way because elephants are known to keep away from bees.
The final team in the hardware category was an all-girls team from Saivapragasha Ladies College Vavuniya. They had designed a device that could be attached to a vehicle. Once attached, it would serve as a limiter preventing the vehicle from going over a certain speed.
The third category of the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors was for web applications. Here too the participating students were asked to develop a website addressing issues they saw plaguing their community.
The first project we saw in this category was by a team from Jaffna Hindu College. They had created a website to help people find jobs around where they live. Like typical job websites, it would allow employers to post vacancies. Job seekers can then search for jobs they like and apply for them.
The second project we saw in this category was from a student at Vaddu Hindu College. This was a website that aims to be a hub where students can find their textbooks. Thus allowing them to read them at any time. Additionally, it would also feature quizzes and past paper questions for students.
A longtime challenge for farmers in Sri Lanka has been selling their products at the right price. It’s become a challenge that we’ve seen many teams at hackathons take up. And as per tradition, this team from Jaffna College had taken it up. They had designed a website that informed farmers of the best markets to sell their produce and also potential customers near them.
This was a web app designed by a team of students from Vavuniya Tamil Maha Vidyalayam. It was designed to help book appointments with doctors. The team had chosen to tackle this problem as they wanted to reduce the wait times for patients to see doctors at the hospitals.
A team from Jaffna Hindu College designed a website that would help you draw graphs. It’s primarily aimed at students. As such, it not only aims to help design graphs but also offers tutorials. The aim of these tutorials is to help students understand the concept of the graphs they’re designing.
This group of students from Jaffna Hindu College had picked what was arguably the most challenging problem to tackle. For the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors, they chose to tackle favoritism in elections. This was the goal of their website, which is admittedly a complex problem and one we weren’t too clear about how exactly they would be tackling it.
This was the final project we saw at the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors Grand Finale. It was done by a group of students from Sithivinayagar Hindu College Mannar. This web app was a learning management system aimed at schools. As such, students would find content from their syllabus. This includes past papers and quizzes they could take.
When the pitches came to an end it was time for lunch. Following the lunch break was the moment everyone had been waiting for. It was time to announce the winners of the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors.
The awards ceremony began with the winners from each educational zone being awarded medals and certificates. Afterward, it was time to announce the results of the Grand Finale, which are as follows.
Once the awards were handed out, the Yarl Geek Challenge Season 7 Juniors officially came to an end. And with that, one can reflect back upon the ideas. Upon reflection, one might argue that these could use a bit more polish. Yet to do so would be to ignore the fact that these ideas were from students.
Many of these students took their first step into the world of technology with this competition. As such, it would be unfair to judge these ideas as one would at other hackathons with experienced developers. Rather, this is a stepping stone for a giant leap that encourages innovation in the minds of the young.
When we offer such encouragement we make an investment. An investment that won’t pay off in the short term. But rather in the far future, we could see an outcome where society wins as a whole is immeasurable.
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