In Technology Contests, Everyone’s a Winner

contests_300x200This year, IEEE Societies and Technical Councils have hosted a large number of contests, featuring a diverse assortment of technological fields, and stretching across many disciplines and demographics. The resumé of newly formed partnerships includes industry front-runners such as Google, Qualcomm, and Disney.  The contests also promote tackling humanitarian issues through technological innovation, competition, and an entrepreneurial spirit while tapping into popular cultural trends such as gaming and mobile app development. Whether calling on participants to build prototypes that will lead to more efficient energy supplies, challenging students to create robot vehicles that assist in landmine detection, or asking even the youngest of potential engineers to solve problems within their communities by recording entertaining videos, this year’s competitions didn’t just build key partnerships; they reinforced a mission to build a better world through applied technology. And all of their participants gain real-world awareness, valuable skills, and a generous dose of fun. The 2014 contest roundup truly demonstrates IEEE Societies’ and Technical Councils’ commitments to providing an opportunity not just for all ages, but for all interests, whether theoretical or artistic; humanitarian or personal; academic or industry; global or local.

Please read below for highlights of just a few of this year’s many contest offerings, and stay tuned for news about opportunities to participate in future events!

Highlights from 2014 Contests and Events

  • EMBS Tricorder XPRIZE: The IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society has partnered with Qualcomm to introduce the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE contest, in which participants are charged with building a consumer-friendly device that can diagnose 15 diseases and measure 5 vital signs. While the contest’s tagline, “Healthcare in the palm of your hand,” accurately expresses the importance of building technological tools to embrace the ever-evolving dynamic of the healthcare industry, the contest’s global reach is particularly impressive. Ten finalist teams were announced in August at the 36th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and hailed from India, Canada, Taiwan, and several European countries. The finalist’s prototypes will be judged on both accuracy and consumer experience in the second half of 2015, and teams will consult with the US Food and Drug Administration throughout the competition to prepare for regulatory review. The top three teams will split $10 million in prize money.
  • EMBS Disney XPRIZE: The IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology’s eclectic partnership with XPRIZE and The Walt Disney Motion Picture Studio extends technical competition to reach those of all ages! The Disney’s Big Hero 6 — XPRIZE Challenge called for submissions from all young innovators between the ages of 8 and 17, who were asked to share their ideas on how to tackle the biggest challenges facing their community or world using science, technology, engineering, art, and/or math. Entrants submitted a 1-3 minute video that was judged on impact, originality, and presentation, with the Top 20 videos progressing to a “crowd-voting” round from October 15-19. The top 6 winners will travel to Los Angeles to walk the red carpet at the premiere of Disney’s Big Hero 6, and go behind the scenes at both Disney Animation Studios and Disney Imagineering.
  • PELS & Google Little Box Challenge: The IEEE Power Electronics Society (IEEE PELS) in collaboration with Google, recently announced the Little Box Challenge, an open competition to build a (much) smaller, but higher-density power inverter—with a chance to take home a $1,000,000 prize.  This initiative not only marks the beginning of a partnership between Google and IEEE, but presents the opportunity to impact the future of power electronics and catalyze innovation that could drive a reduction in the size of power inverters, and lead to higher efficiency, increased reliability, and lower energy costs. The capability to utilize smaller inverters would have a dramatic impact on the size and portability of a wide variety of dependent IEEE technologies, enabling more solar-powered homes, more efficient distributed electrical grids, and expanded electricity to more remote areas. The competition phase is currently in progress, with the winner to be selected following final tests scheduled for October 2015.
  • Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge: According to the UN Mine Action Service, 15,000-20,000 people, across 78 countries, are killed by landmines each year. Clearing regions of landmines has proven to be a treacherous and expensive task, complicated further by the unpredictable detonation of landmines by even the most trained professionals. The first edition of the Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC), sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE RAS) took place at the 2014 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA ‘14) in Hong Kong (and Coimbra, Portugal, remotely), with the goal of promoting the development of new strategies for autonomous landmine detection using robotic technology. 14 teams submitted entries and were progressively eliminated throughout three stages of the Challenge beginning with a simulation scenario. Best-ranked teams advanced to a testing phase, during which mobile robots performed detection and classification strategies in an area harboring surrogate mines.
    Team ORION of the University of Texas at Arlington, USA, was awarded the grand prize.
    Team ORION of the University of Texas at Arlington, USA, was awarded the grand prize.

    Four teams participated in the final stage of the competition. Team ORION of the University of Texas at Arlington, USA, was awarded the grand prize, followed by runners-up from the University of Bremen, Germany, and the University of Southern Mississippi, USA. The 2015 HRATC will take place May 2015 in Seattle, Washington, USA. For more in-depth highlights of this event, please read the recent column in IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine.

  • OES NOSB: In addition to forging new partnerships to gain visibility and create contests, IEEE continues to maintain long-time partnerships, as well. The IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society increased its financial support to the Consortium for Ocean Leadership for this year’s National Ocean Sciences Bowl Competition (NOSB), national-ocean-sciences-bowl-150x178which helped allow the nationally recognized and highly acclaimed competition to continue amidst funding woes. The program provides a forum for talented students to test their knowledge of the marine sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, and geology. Approximately 1,645 students from 300 high schools across the USA participated in this year’s competition, with finals held 1-4 May 2014 in Washington State. The 2015 NOSB Finals are scheduled for 23-26 April, in Mississippi, USA.
  • IEEE EXtreme 24-Hour Programming Competition: Sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society, IEEE EXtreme is a global challenge in which teams of IEEE Student members, supported by an IEEE Student Branch, advised and proctored by an IEEE member, compete in a 24-hour time span against each other to solve a set of programming problems. The competition will be held 18 October 2014.
  • ComSoc 2014 Technology Changing the World Student Competition: IEEE ComSoc is once again hosting its “Communications Technology Changing the World” student competition. Students are tasked to show how they can change the world by developing a unique solution to a real-world problem using engineering, technology, science, computing, and leadership skills to benefit humanity. Participants must submit proposals carefully describing their projects, analyzing expected social impact on humanity or local community, and detailing implementation, testing, and trial phases. Last year’s competition attracted an overwhelming number of participants from areas across the globe, with finalists hailing from Austria, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, and the USA. The top prize was awarded to a team from The Cooper Union’s Albert Nerken School of Engineering, whose entry, “Multiple-Input Multiple Output Optical Communication with Arduino (MOCA),” demonstrates a low-cost model of using LEDs to wirelessly transmit data using visible light. The second-prize winner, Luka Mustafa, from University College, London, created a prototype of an effective and low-cost laser ethernet transceiver. Entries for the 2014 edition were submitted in late August, with prizes to be awarded at the IEEE Global Communications Conference 2014.
  • The IEEE Computational Intelligence Society (IEEE CIS) is presently sponsoring two competitions, geared toward engaging students in activities related to computer intelligence.
    • Ghost Challenge: The IEEE CIS Ghost Challenge 2014 accepted registrants through September 2014, and will begin 1 November, 2014. The challenge consists in developing an autonomous agent able to successfully play Geister (a game with partially observable information). Each registered team will be able to download from the challenge website the Geister software, i.e. a server and a baseline autonomous player (client). The Geister software will allow a team to develop its own autonomous player (agent) locally. Specifically, the client is designed to play N consecutive rounds (matches) against the same opponent (i.e., another client). This scheme allows the client to adapt its own game style to the opponent. After several rounds, and a ranking stage, teams will advance to a “round robin” tournament, and finally a single-elimination tournament in which agents play each other in one-off 50-round matches, with extra rounds used to decide the winner if necessary.All 50-round matches will be scheduled and broadcasted in real-time via the website.
    • CIS-Mobile-App-Competition-200x153Mobile App Competition: The CIS Mobile App Competition on Games is jointly organized by the IEEE CIS Student Activities subcommittee and the IEEE CIS Student Game-based Competition committee. The competition encourages students to develop a Mobile Game Application based on computational intelligence techniques.
  • IEEE Signal Processing Cup 2015: The IEEE Signal Processing Society is seeking undergraduate students, and encouraging them to form teams and work together to solve a challenging and interesting real-world problem using signal-processing techniques and methods as part of the IEEE Signal Processing Cup 2015. Three teams will be selected to present their work on “Heart Rate Monitoring During Physical Exercise Using Wrist-Type Photoplethysmographic (PPG) Signals.”
  • Global Energy Forecasting Competition 2014: The IEEE Power & Energy Society (IEEE PES) and the IEEE Working Group on Energy Forecasting recently announced the Global Energy Forecasting Competition 2014 (GEFCom2014), which invites data scientists from around the globe to tackle the forecasting challenges that the power and energy industry faces today. This is the first forecasting competition in the power and energy industry that asks for probabilistic forecasts: each contestant is required to submit 99 forecasted quantiles instead of a single-point estimate. GEFCom2014 will end on Dec. 15, 2014. In addition, winning teams and institutions of the competition will be invited to present their methodologies and insights at the 2015 IEEE PES General Meeting in Denver.
  • GRSS Data Fusion Contest: The 2014 Data Fusion Contest, organized by the Image Analysis and Data Fusion (IADF) Technical Committee of the IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, provided a challenging image analysis opportunity, including multiresolution and multisensor fusion, very high resolution imagery, and a completely new data type, which was never before considered in previous Data Fusion Contests. It consisted of two parallel competitions: a classification contest (results here), designed to promote innovation in classification algorithms, and a paper contest (results here), aimed at promoting novel synergetic uses of multiresolution and multisensor data. The winning teams of both competitions were awarded at IGARSS-2014, in Quebec, Canada.