USIU-Africa students emerge winners in annual global technology competition

A team of four Kenyan university students beat stiff competition from 163 countries across the globe to win the 2021 Microsoft’s annual global student technology challenge, Imagine Cup.

The four, Khushi Gupta, Jeet Gohil, Dharmik Karania and Abdihamid Ali (all pictured above) are fourth-year students from the United States International University (USIU) – Africa, undertaking bachelor’s in computer science.

They developed an IoT-based infant monitoring solution, REWEBA (Remote Well Baby), which remotely analyzes infant parameters during post-natal screening and serves as an early warning intervention system. The team won $75,000 (approximately Kshs 8 million), a mentoring session with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and a $50,000 (approximately Kshs 5.35 million) Microsoft Azure Grant.

The 19th edition of the competition brought together thousands of students from 163 countries across the globe reimagining tech solutions to impact their communities. With projects submitted in four social good categories – Earth, Education, Healthcare, and Lifestyle – the competition advanced through Online Semi-finals and World Finals rounds. As winners of each category, the top four teams were selected to pitch their projects at the World Championship during Microsoft Build for the chance to take home the 2021 trophy.

Team REWEBA emerged winners from the top four teams selected out of 40 World Finalists that presented their projects at the World Finals. The other three top teams were Protag from New Zealand, Hand-On Labs from the United States and Threeotech from Thailand.

“It is absolutely gratifying that a Kenyan team would come up with a solution that could compete on a world scale and even emerge as winners. The Imagine Cup is a chance to make something that matters to you and develop your skills as part of the journey. We have the tools, resources, learning materials, and mentors to help you bring your project to life. Whether you’re hoping to accelerate with Artificial Intelligence, create with Cognitive Services, master Machine Learning, or build low-code solutions with Power Platform, this competition is an experience for everyone,” says Kendi Nderitu, Country Manager, Microsoft Kenya.

REWEBA is designed as an early warning system that digitally monitors babies’ growth and health parameters and sends them to doctors for timely intervention. It combines Machine Learning, IoT, Analytics, and more to provide innovative functionalities for infant screening, mimicking the process of post-natal screening in a hospital. Team member, Jeet Gohil, shared that “There’s a lot of technologies that we came to discover {through building our project}, for example Azure DevOps, IoT, and Functions. We learned a lot about how to build IoT systems.”

Another team member Khushi Gupta says: “Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest under-5 mortality rate in the world. The project idea, which has taken two years to develop, came to life when we were doing community service at local hospitals. We saw mothers coming from far-away places walking the whole day and queuing just to get their babies screened and if mothers don’t do that, they don’t get the parameters monitored which are very vital to identify diseases early. We can solve this problem using REWEBA, a remote infant monitoring system that can be used in marginalized areas thus giving everyone equal access to healthcare.”

“What a great honour and privilege for our students to be recognised at such a global platform. The future is indeed digital and I’m proud to see our students use their academic exposure to build an application that with immensely support our country to reduce infant mortality and at the same time, scale it to a global level”, said Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Vice Chancellor, (President) and Professor of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the United States International University-Africa

Looking to the future, Team REWEBA hopes to enhance and scale their project to include additional infant screening factors and a postnatal screening device for mothers. The team would like to launch a start-up in Kenya to enable even better access to healthcare services in marginalized areas. When asked how winning the 2021 Imagine Cup will impact their project, the team responded, “The winning prize and the Azure grants will take our project up a notch, and we envision saving millions of babies’ lives all around Kenya. We plan to extend throughout Africa and India as well, as these are the countries where infant mortality is really high.”

This year, six teams from Middle East and Africa including Kenya, Pakistan and Tunisia made it to the semi-finals. Over the past 19 years, more than two million student competitors have signed up to build something that matters to them, make a difference in their communities, and innovate for impact. Registration for the 2022 competition is now open.

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