Imagine Cup Hungary Winners!

The Imagine Cup Hungary finals were held last week at Microsoft headquarters in Budapest. This year’s topic was Imagine a world where technology enables a sustainable environment and there were multiple categories one could enter (including algorithm, games, short film and some other). We’ve entered the “main” category, Software Design. In this category the winners of the national round qualify for the world finals held in Paris this year. And yes… we’ve won and will be representing Hungary in the world finals!!

The Idea

In theSoftware Design category teams of maxium 4 have to create a project for the theme of the competition utilizing Microsoft technologies. We’ve spent weeks brainstorming with what we could develop for this year’s theme and finally came up with a water saving irrigation system. The motivation driving this idea was that we learned that 80% of all sweet water used goes towards irrigation compared to only 7% of sweet water used by households! So if we could save 5% on irrigation that would be equivalent of saving 50% on household water usage and would have a huge impact.

Looking at the irrigation systems used today the main types of these are:

  • Manual, when a human constantly controls irrigation
  • Automatic, when some irrigation equipment is installed and it waters according to a pre-defined rule
  • Automatic with some sensors: this solution is more expensive but takes into account the current soil moisture before watering

Our idea was to create an automatic watering system that is more efficient than the irrigation systems existing today while being cheap at the same time. To do this we are using cheap soil moisture hardware, freely available weather forecasts and rules specified by the farmer.

Implementation & Demo

So the past two months we’ve been developing an initial prototype of this system. We’ve ordered the soil moisture sensor, managed to get it communicate with the computer, integrated a water pipe that’s controlled by the computer and developed an application using MSSQL, ASP.NET and Silverlight to control the whole thing.

The only question was on how to demo the whole thing. I mean, we can show the interface and diagrams but in a room it’s quite hard to demo anything of this. Originally we’ve planned to show it using plants… but the problem is that plants need watering only every day or so… and after having drowned about 5 of the home plants we gave up on this path.

The idea to this came only two days before the presentation: let’s use sponges to “speed up” time and demo the whole system in a small box! So we’ve created a small mock-up of a sponge, a soil moisture sensor, a plastic plant and a small pipe watering the whole thing. In the demo we haven’t had time to integrate weather forecasts but the whole set up looked quite cute watering a little about every 30 seconds just as the sponge ran out of water.

Presentation & Prizes

The presentation went really good. We were the last ones to present and there was another team who’ve developed a really good project encouraging environmental awareness via a social site where members get reputation based on environmental tasks they do. The judge however announced us (team DigitalMania) as winners! This means we get to go to the world finals in Paris at 3-8 July 2008!! We’ll definitely be polishing our project until then!

One Response to Imagine Cup Hungary Winners!
  1. [...] few months ago when we’ve decided to enter the Imagine Cup competiton. We’ve managed to win ...