First place win for MS/IM students’ hackathon team

Three iSchool students were on the winning team at PygHack 2018, a 24-hour hackathon that brings together coders, designers, engineers, and dreamers to work together to create something that can benefit the community or an organization in Champaign-Urbana. This year's event was held on September 29-30 at the University of Illinois Research Park. PygHack projects were judged on community benefit, collaboration, design, functioning prototype, and innovation. 

MS/IM students Siran (Terry) Dai, Jianzhang Chen, and Yinan (Lynn) Ni teamed up with Joshua Wu, an undergraduate in Computer Science, and Zhaoqin Wang, a PhD student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, on a fleet fuel management project. Their team placed first out of sixteen teams—winning $1,500 cash, Huawei tablets, dinner with the Granular Engineering Leadership Team, and one month of office space at Lodgic Everyday Community in Champaign.

PygHack 2018 team
Jianzhang Chen, Siran (Terry) Dai, Yinan (Lynn) Ni, Zhaoqin Wang, and Joshua Wu
Photo by Veronica Mullen

Their winning project tackles the Urbana Fleet Fuel Management problem, which tries to find trends in gas station prices and vehicle fueling behaviors based on the fleet credit card transactions data regarding the fuel station, amount of fuel, vehicle ID, vehicle mileage, etc. In addition to answering questions about price and behavior, the project includes a dynamic route recommendation system that calculates the route between a start point and a destination, looks at all of the gas stations that are reachable along the route, and then recommends a gas station. 

"The gas station recommendation can be optimized for the cost (i.e., it will recommend the gas station with the cheapest prices while taking into account the fuel lost by making a detour to the station) or for time (i.e., it will recommend the gas station that is fastest and cheapest to get to)," Dai explained. "Our team also built reusable, interactive dashboards for fleet manager monitoring the gas station prices and vehicle fueling behaviors in real time, which can save more time to make the best use of the data."

Dai expressed his gratitude to the iSchool for giving him the opportunity to learn new skills in information sciences and meet talented students with different backgrounds and skillsets.

"I really enjoyed the collaboration with our teammates during the whole process," he said. "Every one of us has an expertise in problem solving (coding, data analysis, business research, web development, etc.). It was really exciting to work together and make this great project!"

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