Balaji M. K, Researcher - Consumer Protection and Pavithra Ramesh, Researcher - Consumer Protection

Hackathon and Prototype Building Competition 2019

Tue, 21/01/2020 - 10:42

CAG, in collaboration with Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science (HITS), conducted a hackathon and prototype building competition from 13-14 of December 2019. The competition was designed to encourage students in building prototypes and relevant IT applications for use in everyday lives of electricity consumers. Themes for competition included (i) Electricity Governance, (ii) Renewable Energy, (iii) Energy Conservation and (iv) Energy Efficiency. 

The technical solutions developed by the  students were expected to answer an overarching problem statement: What kind of products and applications will be useful for citizens to make their everyday lives more energy efficient and promote uptake of renewable energy?

Objectives of the hackathon and prototype building competition:

  • To harness the creativity & expertise of students;

  • To promote innovation among interdisciplinary groups of students;

  • To promote practical and scalable prototypes and applications for use by citizens; and

  • To encourage the use of renewable source-based power generation and energy efficiency.

​1. Prototype building competition

​A. Format of the competition - In October, the organising committee sent out a general call for proposals seeking submissions from various colleges across Tamil Nadu. Among an overwhelming number of submissions received, 6 proposals were shortlisted for the final round of evaluation and funding to build the prototype (up to INR 20,000) was extended to all the shortlisted teams. In the final round of evaluation held on 14 December 2019, three prototypes were ranked as winners and cash prizes were awarded to each member of the 3 teams. 

 

B. Shortlisted proposals - The six shortlisted prototype proposals include an AI based home automation system, solar powered water purifier, solar powered pesticide spraying vehicle, a project to convert sound to electricity, dual axis solar tracker and an Internet of Things based home automation system.

C. Evaluation Criteria - The winners were finalised based on the following criteria: 

  1. Innovation & Impact potential – the extent to which the proposed prototype contributes to knowledge creation.

  2. Eco-friendliness – due diligence is exercised in ensuring that the materials used for the prototype are reusable/recyclable and a systematic waste management plan is in place.

  3. Citizen focus – the ability of the prototype to solve problems at a citizen level.

  4. Practicality – the prototype is user-friendly and there is ease in adapting it to everyday life.

  5. Affordability – cost savings that the prototype assures as against alternatives, if any.

  6. Scalability – the prototype has potential cost advantages at an increased level of production.

  7. Sustainability – the prototype advances environmental and socio-economic benefits in its life cycle.

​D. The winning prototypes: 

  1. The first place was awarded to the solar powered pesticide spraying vehicle developed by a two member team from University College of Engineering, Ariyalur.

  2. The Dual Axis Solar Tracker, built to optimise the efficiency of the solar panels, was ranked second. This prototype was built by a three-member team from KPR Institute of Engineering & Technology, Coimbatore.

  3. The third place was awarded to the home automation system which promotes energy conservation through monitoring and control of household appliances. The home automation system was developed by a four member team from St. Joseph's Institute of Technology, Chennai using Application Programming Interface (API) Package.

​II Hackathon competition

A. Format of the competition: Students were given a time period of 24 hours from 13 December2019 to 14 December2019, to create functional software applications or products for citizens. These applications or products were required to promote one of the themes highlighted for the competition. About 18 teams from different colleges across Tamil Nadu, participated in the competition. Among the 18 teams, five teams worked on solutions based on renewable energy; six teams focused on energy conservation; three teams focused on electricity governance; and, four teams worked on energy efficiency projects. 

 

 

The teams started working on developing their solutions as the 24-hour timer was set at 09:40 am on 13 December2019. In the 24-hour duration, each team was monitored by jury members from Auroville Consulting, Accenture, CAG, HITS and other venture capitalists and incubators. Around 12:30 pm, the first set of jury members reviewed the idea, vision and plan of action of each of the participating teams. To evaluate the approach of work and progress in the same a second set of jury members visited the teams around 05:30 p,. During the course of monitoring and evaluation jury members engaged with the teams and advised them on several aspects of their projects/solutions. The jury composition ensured that the teams had support from experts in a range of subjects including engineering, economics, management, finance and communication. In the final round of review, experts who visited the teams around 11:30 p, gave the students several inputs on fine-tuning and presenting their solutions.

As the timer struck 0.00 hrs, each team was given an opportunity to present the final version of their application/product. Based on their presentation and the presented solution, eight teams were ranked as winners and runners under 4 categories such as (i) Best problem addressed, (ii) Best innovation, (iii) Award for business potential, and (iv) Encouragement award. Cash prizes were awarded to winning teams under each category.

B. Evaluation Criteria - The winners were finalised based on the following criteria

  1. Implementation - The solution developed presents possible avenues to be introduced in the market. 
  2. Social impact - The solution developed adds value to the community and benefits citizens.       
  3. Business impact - The application/product has potential to be transformed into a lucrative business model with sizeable cost advantages;
  4. Innovation - The application/product contributes to knowledge creation;

C. The winning solutions at the hackathon:

  1. A four-member team from KCG College of Technology, Chennai developed the solution that won the ‘best problem addressed’ award. The solution built was an application named ‘Energy Planner’ that promotes energy saving in households. The app uses a Passive Infrared (PIR) sensor to turn off appliances when it does not deduct people's presence. 

  2. Best innovation award was given to ‘safety glove for women’ which induces electric shock at the press of a button. The glove was developed by a student from Chennai Institute of Technology, Chennai.

  3. An application that was built to provide real time calculation of commercial tariff was presented with the award for business potential. This app was built by a four-member team from Velammal Institute of Technology, Chennai.

  4. Encouragement award was given to a solar tracker which was built using servo motor. The product, which ensures increased efficiency of solar panels, was built by a three- member team from KCG College of Technology, Chennai.

The prototype building competition encouraged students to nurture an idea from the conceptualisation phase to the pre-final phase of designing a sample/model which could be tested over a period of two months. On the other hand, the hackathon competition provided a 24-hour time period for students to develop feasible and practical solutions that can be transformed into business models. 

The various proposals, ideas, prototypes and solutions presented in the hackathon and prototype building competition reflect the immense interest that budding engineers foster in developing energy solutions. The innovative and ambitious nature of the proposals suggest a strong need for guidance, mentorship and support in transforming conceptual frameworks and ideas into reality.

Footnotes:

1. Organising committee was made up of members from Team CAG and HITS. The committee was headed by Mr. K.Vishnu Mohan Rao, CAG and Dr. Parvathy, Head of the Department - Electrical and Electronics Engineering, HITS

2.  Permitted size of the teams  - 1 to 4 students

3. Permitted size of the teams: 1 - 4 students per team

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Training Programme at Auroville Consulting

Tue, 21/01/2020 - 09:10

Researchers and ECC Engineers from Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) attended a three-day training programme at Auroville Consulting (AVC) from 16 December 2019 to 18 December 2019. The programme focused on several topics ranging from TN Solar Policy 2019 and rooftop solar installation to e-mobility and smart grid systems. The sessions of the programme were designed and structured in such a way that each of them were supplemented with site visits and expert interactions.

Highlights of the training programme: 

  1. The sessions enabled a hands-on learning experience with site visits to Auroville’s rooftop solar installation, wastewater treatment plant and e-cycles initiative.

  2. The programme provided ample scope to explore the various energy efficient and sustainable practices followed at Auroville.

  3. The sessions were complimented with interactions, discussions and board games that enhanced the learning experience.

  4. The sessions were delivered by experts who presented the topics based on their respective  experience and aurovillian experiments.

Mr.  Toine van Megen delivered the first session of the programme. He presented a detailed analysis of the Tamil Nadu Solar Policy 2019. Following which Mr. Shiv Vembadi presented on the implementation of KUSUM in Tamil Nadu. He explained that an integrated approach ie., combing energy-efficient pumps and advanced irrigation methods will conserve energy as well as water.  

The afternoon session on rooftop solar installation was conducted by Mr. Debabrata Sahoo. He emphasised on the need for solar energy and shared Auroville experiences on stand-alone and grid-connected rooftop solar. He concluded the session with a site visit to the foundation office at Auroville, where 15 kW of rooftop panels have been installed. At the foundation office, he explained each system component of the rooftop solar and emphasised on the importance of site survey.

Image 1: Solar panels installed on the foundation office rooftop

Image 2: Battery store at foundation office

 

On Day 2 of the training programme, the first session on decentralised wastewater treatment was delivered by Mr. Tency Beatens. He shared his experiences in building wastewater treatment systems and explained the working of the Vortex system at Auroville Centre for Scientific Research (CSR).  These systems are built below the ground level and treat wastewater in a closed environment. Further to eliminate the odour from the wastewater, the vortex system uses a swirling motion and continuous supply of oxygen.

Image 3: Vortex system at the Centre for Scientific Research

 

The day ended with a visit to Kinisi, Auroville. Kinisi is a unit of Auroville under the Center for Scientific Research Trust which brings electric mobility to all Auroville residents, volunteers and guests. Mr. Debabrata drew attention to the energy wastage resulting from use of different kinds of vehicles and highlighted that Kinisi was started to provide efficient solutions to reduce such energy wastage. Reflecting on the work and journey of Kinisi, the need to switch to electric mobility and its relevance in metro cities were discussed at length.

Image 4: E-cycles at Kinisi

Image 5: Photos displayed at Kinisi

 

On Day 3 of the training programme began with a visit to the Power Grid Corporation, Pondicherry. Mr. Raghunath, Control Centre Engineer presented a brief on the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) which facilitates monitoring and measurement of consumer information through Smart Meters installed at customer premises. He highlighted that a pilot project was implemented in 2016 where smart meters were installed for 34,000 consumers which include single-phase, three-phase and HT meters. He demonstrated the working of smart meters, manufactured by Dongfang Electronics Co., Ltd, China and explained about the data acquisition and management systems in place. He concluded the session with the challenges faced by them while implementing the project.

Image 6: Discussion with Control Centre Engineer, Raghunath

 

The subsequent session was focused on the smart street lights installed at Auroville. Mr. Jaswanth, AVC explained about the working of the Smart Street Lights which have been designed to create an overarching digital control system that is based on the concept of Internet of Things, and cloud computing to deliver efficiency to existing street light grids. He highlighted that the street lights have been installed with lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and dimmers. He added that after 11 PM, the lights automatically function at 40% of its brightness. He concluded with a demonstration of how the lights can be controlled and monitored on the web.

Image 7: Mr. Jaswanth explaining the working of smart street lights

 

The final session of the programme was on Green buildings. Mr. Victor Catrib introduced the green building concept and shared information around the steps to be followed while planning to construct a passive or green building. He explained the concept of the urban heat island effect and elaborated on various Heating Ventilation and Air cooling (HVAC) systems. He further threw light on energy efficient measures that can make a net-zero energy building. He concluded the session with a deep dive into several case studies on green buildings, from around the world. 

Image 8: Mr. Victor Catrib presenting on Green Buildings

 

The three-day training programme came to a close with a board game designed and developed by AVC. The multi-stakeholder board game enabled the players to approach electricity consumption with long-term strategies to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Overall, the three-day training programme was an interesting learning experience. The sessions were focused on the theoretical, technical, practical and policy aspects of solar energy, passive buildings, electric mobility, and smart grid systems. Each of these sessions were further supplemented with site visits and interactions with proficient personnel working in the respective space. The most interesting aspect of the sessions was that they were based on Aurovillian experiments and experience around the highlighted themes. To have instructors who have walked the talk and speak out of experience was both insightful and inspiring. Above all, it was most beneficial since the environment promoted hands-on learning and encouraged inquisitiveness.

Footnotes:

1. Tamil Nadu announced its new Solar Policy in February 2019 which sets an ambitious target of achieving an installed solar generation capacity of 9,000 MW by 2023.

2.  Kisan Urja Suraksha evem Utthan (KUSUM scheme): Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evem Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) Scheme for farmers for installation of solar pumps and grid connected solar and other renewable power plants in the country.

3.  A net-zero energy building is a building with zero net energy consumption, i.e. total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site

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