IIHR Graduate Researcher Hacks into Citizen Science

March 14, 2016

by Shianne Fisher

How long does it take to “hack” one product into another? For Yusuf Sermet and more than 150 other university students at the Midwest Hackathon, the answer is 36 hours.

yusuf sermet

IIHR Graduate Researcher Yusuf Sermet (right) accepts recognition for his project, “Combining IoT with Crowdsourcing for Natural Disasters,” at the Midwest Hackathon, which took place in February at Iowa State University.

Sermet, a graduate research assistant at IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, was one of the few solo teams at Iowa State University’s fifth hackathon, which took place last month. His project, “Combining IoT with Crowdsourcing for Natural Disasters,” was recognized at the event with “Best Internet of Things (IoT) Hack by Vermeer” and “Sukup Innovation Award.” He was supervised by IIHR Researcher Ibrahim Demir.

“When I found out that Major League Hacking would be in Ames, I knew I just had to go,” says Sermet.

Sermet joined a total of 57 teams, with a limit of four university students to each, all working with various tools created by Facebook, Google, Amazon, and more, to create innovate and useful software applications. Although 226 students checked in, a little more than a fourth were unable to come up with a finished product. Of those who succeeded, just 11 teams—including Sermet—were recognized with sponsor prizes.

Using IoT thinking, Sermet reprogrammed the Amazon Dash Button to connect with IIHR servers in order to send flood related data and information. The button, a one-click buying alternative that uses wi-fi to reorder favorite products right when you need them, is just one example of an IoT device. Others include app-controlled thermostats, smart phone activity-trackers, and trash bins that alert municipal services when full.

“It would be a game changer if we could make use of this low-cost cutting edge technology in flood research,” says Sermet.

In the future, Sermet’s reprogramming could allow users to send predefined flood-related information with just the press of a button—a very minimal effort compared to traditional citizen science (or crowdsourcing) applications. However, Sermet jokes that he’s most proud of staying awake for three days straight. You can view Sermet’s project on Devpost, which includes a demo of what the Iowa Flood Center dash button could look like.

A few of the prize-winning creations include an interest-based photo and video sharing smart phone app, a website that could help you find a lunch date, and an Apple Watch feature that detects falls by senior citizens. Top hackers won prizes such as hoverboards, Spheroes (robots), Drone quadcopters, and more. About 10 schools were represented, says Garret Meier, president of the HackISU student organization. You can view all of the submissions at the HackISU Devpost website.

The Midwest Hackathon partners with Major League Hacking, the official student hackathon league, powered by Dell and Intel.