A team of University of Wolverhampton students has been chosen as one of five finalists in an international developer initiative focused on applying technology to solve the world’s biggest challenges including climate change and COVID-19.
The five students, studying for Computer Science and Physics degrees in the University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, entered the 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge during lockdown and are competing alongside the University of California, the University of the Andes & Pontificia Universidad Javernia (Colombia), University of Technology (Jamaica) and the University of Sydney (Australia).
The annual competition led by founding partner IBM and creator David Clark Cause, aimed at both students and full-time professionals, promotes the use of “Tech for Good” around a given theme. This year the competition focuses on two themes - Climate Change and the effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The team is made up of Chloe Allen-Ede, a third year Physics student, Fabrice Bassama Kana, a third year Chemical Engineering student, Lukas Jaks, a second year Computer Science student and Iman Hussain, a Master’s Computer Science student.
The team has been looking at the distribution of food and business continuity in the event of local lockdowns.
The project, Lupe, is a web solution that provides a simple way for small businesses to continue to find customers digitally in the local community – and where things can’t be sold, offers a way for items to be distributed to local charities and food banks.
“Lupe stands for Lockdown Use Purchasing Environment. The idea was sparked from a brainstorming session we had early on as a team. We noticed in the initial lockdown that a lot of business such as corner shops and restaurants had lots of food reserves but had no way of selling or using it.
“Likewise we also saw lots of people who had hoarded toiletries, but needed food (or vice-versa). We wanted to make a platform that allowed people to trade and swap items based on their needs, as well as based on things such as "sell by date". It would also incorporate a system whereby restaurants or organisations could give away their leftovers, or redistribute food that they could no longer sell.
“In the UK we throw away 4.5 million tonnes worth of edible food a year, imagine if we could build a platform that could get that food to the people who needed it. It's been an amazing experience being able to contribute to a global competition and create technologies that are really going to help people.”
“Early in the national lockdown it seemed as if people were panic buying food but we later learned that up to 40% of what UK households eat come from outside the home so increased purchasing is unsurprising.
“The real food surpluses were in the fridges and freezers of the pubs, cafes, restaurants and canteens that were unable to trade during the lockdown period. The system we are working on seeks to address this problem.”
Dr Herb Daly, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science in the School of Mathematics and Computer Science, said:
“The Wolverhampton Team has chosen to look at the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and how we could manage future more localised lockdowns effectively.
“It has been great to see what they have been able to achieve in such a short amount of time, picking up new technologies and working with different kinds of clients. Their aim to support Business to Business, Business to Consumer and Business to Charity interaction is quite special and ambitious. We look forward to seeing what they are finally able to achieve.”
The students aim is to provide a platform for local businesses to continue to trade in the event of a local lockdown. Businesses that are closed such as restaurants can use it to sell their stock, wholesale to those that are open such as takeaway. Businesses that are open can sell products directly to the consumer without creating their own portal. Food products are listed with their use by date and are automatically donated to local foodbanks when they are at risk of spoiling. As well as specially designed front ends for different kinds of user, the system used Hyperledger Blockchain technology behind the scenes to ensure the integrity of the supply chain.
Call for Code has many well-known celebrity supporters around the world including Lady Gaga, Rod Stewart, Trevor Noah and Pierce Brosnan and is supported by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, The Linux Foundation and IBM.
Anyone looking to study for a Computer Science course should register for the next Virtual Open Day.
Picture caption from left to right: Fabrice Bassama Kana, Chemical Engineering student, Lukas Jaks, Computer Science student, Chloe Allen-Ede, Physics student and Iman Hussain, Computer Science Master's student.
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