09:38 AM

Pothole problems? UHCL hackathon winners have solutions

Students holding winner certificates
Why does Houston have so many potholes? From left, Rajanish Karki, Manish Paudel, Sanchit Gnawali and their mentor innovate solutions.

Ever get a message saying your social media account has been hacked? Generally, that's aggravating news — unless you're talking about the Johnson Space Center Hackathon 2021, a competition in which young technology innovators have only 24 hours to find new software and hardware solutions to real-world problems.

Manish Paudel and Sanchit Gnawali, both University of Houston-Clear Lake seniors working toward their Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, entered the Hackathon competition along with Rajanish Karki, who attends Houston Community College. He said he heard about the competition from Internship Programs Coordinator Bernadina Streeter, in the Office of Strategic Partnerships.

"In Strategic Partnerships, we connect students not only with internships and industry professionals, but we engage them in experiential learning opportunities, like JSC's Hackathon," Streeter said. "With the completion of their academic studies and learning and networking opportunities like this, our Hawks enter the workforce able to make a positive impact in their communities."

Paudel said that he and his two teammates created a prototype for a mobile app designed to help the City of Houston Public Works address a problem they find more aggravating than being hacked — giant potholes in the city's streets.

"With the help of some mentors, we entered our prototype in the Mobile App category and we won," Paudel said. "Our idea was to help the city repair potholes on the street. Houston is often criticized for its potholes. In the last mayoral election, there was a lot of criticism directed at the incumbent mayor about not solving this. It's a problem that is everywhere in Houston."

Although potholes aren't a technology problem, Paudel said that it's a real-world, day-to-day problem that makes life hard for people like him who are trying to travel the streets with tire-deflating potholes.

"We think the Public Works should know immediately about these potholes, but the ways that currently exist for drivers to report this are time consuming and not efficient," he said. "You can't stop and pull up a website while you're driving."

Paudel and his team's app would identify and communicate the exact location of the pothole to the city's Public Works department instantly. "All a driver has to do is click a button," he said. "It's based on latitude and longitude map coordinates. They can find the pothole and fix it."

He said that he hoped to collaborate with the city's Public Works department on the prototype and make it available for public use, as well as direct it toward other smaller city governments as well.

"Everyone in Houston finds potholes aggravating," he said.

For more information about UHCL's computer science program, go online. Looking to connect with organizations and companies in the community? UHCL's Office of Strategic Partnerships can help.