A project by a team from the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) that seeks to connect people who need blood with potential donors via a mobile app won the grand prize in the 13th SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards.
The team that built BloodSeeker won P300,000 during the national awarding at the Mind Museum in Taguig City last Thursday, February 9. The school also won half the amount in grants.
“We are overwhelmed by the win,” USJ-R College of Information, Computer and Communications Technology dean Greg Gabison said in an interview after the awarding.
BloodSeeker app, business model
BloodSeeker was built by USJ-R students Kirster Kyle Quinio, Alyzza Villahermosa, Harniel Salmeron and Sept Lozada. It seeks to simplify the process of donating blood by matching potential donors with those who need blood through an app and website. The team spent weeks building the product, validating its market demand, and studying a potential business model to make it sustainable.
BloodSeeker members told judges during their pitch that they already talked to potential partners like the Philippine Red Cross and the Department of Health – Central Visayas. They reported good feedback from initial engagements with potential partners and users.
Gabison said the mentorship provided by SWEEP or the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program was a big help to their students. It turned what he said was a “good concept” into a better idea and working prototype.
“Going through a mentoring process is not common in universities. You’re actually being mentored by business leaders, technology gurus,” Gabison said. With the Smart SWEEP program, “it’s not just the students who get to be mentored but also faculty members. And they get so much confidence out of it.”
Providing mentorship on market potential and the business aspects of a product is a key component of a program that started purely as a way to boost engineering education.
“It just can’t be technology. You have to have a business model. You have to do market testing and validation. We’re helping these students complete the process that anyone who goes through this has to do anyway,” said SMART Public Affairs Group Head Mon Isberto.
Three other projects from USJ-R made it to the 10 finalists – the most number from one school. These are Ethelon, which matches those who want to volunteer for charity events with foundations; Hitch: a system that allows people to share rides in their daily commutes for a fee; and Tourista: an app that highlights tour packages of travel companies.
The projects were chosen from a field of 230 entries submitted by student teams from 52 schools all over the country.
The 13th SWEEP Awards carried the theme “Changing Lives Through Mobile and Digital Innovations.”
The entries were whittled down to 20 teams who were asked to build prototypes and then flown to Manila for face-to-face interviews with judges. The judges then picked the 10 finalists who immediately underwent a boot camp, said Smart Education Program Head Stephanie Orlino.
They were paired with startup founders from the IdeaSpace Foundation who provided mentoring.
“We found this to be the best approach,” Orlino said, “since startups are the closest to their situation” as a business and project.
Improvements in entries, presentation
Orlino said there has been a marked improvement in the quality of the entries and how the students pitched them.
“Their presentation skills and pitching have leveled up. They now have very sophisticated and elegant applications and are able to demonstrate it and show that they have potential users. They talk about business. It’s already in their consciousness – how you are going to earn.”
Placing second during this year’s search is BuyONG or Buy Online-N-Go, a system that allows people to buy groceries online and then pick them up by drive-through. BuyONG was built by a team from a Batangas State University, a frequent SWEEP winner.
At third place was Traffix by a team from Ateneo de Manila University. It’s a system that uses algorithms to show an optimal route for vehicles that need to go to multiple destinations. Unlike Waze and Google Maps, the team told judges, their project offers better routes for multiple points.
Other SMART Sweep finalists
AgriLife, an application that connects farmers who need money during cropping season with potential investors willing to fund them via cooperatives, also made it to the top 10. The app, according to the students from Wesleyan University – Philippines, will help farmers avoid getting into debt. The team won a special award from Ericsson.
Other projects that also made it to the top 10 include GreenEye from Batangas State University, a camera system that can be mounted on drones that can check the health of a plantation; Kariton from the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology, a system that simplifies ordering of organic products; and SALAS of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, a system for looking for and reserving function rooms.
The SWEEP Awards started in 2004. SWEEP is a collaboration between the company and various schools meant to raise the standard of engineering and IT education in the country. Because of SWEEP, Smart was cited last year by international magazine Fortune as one of 50 companies that have “changed the world.”
Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since 1999 and twice won the Philippine Blog Awards for technology and sports. He co-founded the new media start-up InnoPub Media.