San Francisco Bay Area-based Team Vishvakarma won third place as part of a Hackathon event organized by TiE Silicon Valley. The team, comprised of Indian Americans Jithun Nair (left), Arovit Narula (right) and Parag Shah (not pictured), won $2,000 for their project dealing with effective and efficient dumping of waste to landfills. (Som Sharma/India-West photo)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco Bay Area-based Team Vishvakarma, a three-member hackathon team comprised of Indian Americans Jithun Nair, Arovit Narula and Parag Shah, was awarded $2,000 during TiEcon 2016 at the Santa Clara Convention Center for coming in third at a recent TiE Silicon Valley competition.

For the TiE Smart Cities Hackathon competition, Team Vishvakarma was tasked with assuming the role of private waste management companies that want to efficiently identify, gather and transport solid waste to landfills, while also preventing random dumping of waste.

“There were several facets to the problem,” Narula explained to India-West, adding that each facet of the project had separate players, resources and parameters. “Our primary goal was to maximize the quantity of waste you can transport because the government payment you receive is weight-based: the more you can transport, the more revenue you can make and this also involved influencing residents to throw thrash at designated trash bins to achieve this goal.”

Mumbai-based Team Vermigold, comprised of Jaideep Saptrishi and Shiladitya Mukhopadhya, was named the top team of the competition.

Despite falling short of winning the competition, all the members of Team Vishvakarma were satisfied with the result.

“I felt elated that our hard work got us third place. We never really focused on doing it for the sake of getting any prize,” Narula said. “We liked the problem and had fun solving it, which automatically led us to the top three. All in all it was a surprising moment.”

Nair added in an e-mail to India-West, “It was a very pleasant surprise to be one of the winners of the Hackathon. The waste management problem was a very interesting and nuanced one, and it was heartening to know that our efforts had borne fruit.”

Overall, the team outpaced 117 other teams in the 120-team competition.

“It gave me satisfaction that we could come up with meaningful solutions using the cutting-edge technology for problems that would work in countries as diverse and intricate as India,” Shah told India-West.

Narula, Nair and Shah each knew each other from working on the Vote for Better India project and developed an instant camaraderie with one another. Shah e-mailed asking if anyone wanted to take part in the Hackathon to which Nair and Narula quickly accepted, Narula said.

“It was good that we knew each other before this Hackathon, which helped us work as a strong team and using everyone's potential to fullest,” Narula added.

Each of the members on the third-place winning team, despite their successes in the Hackathon event, are interested in their own personal projects.

Narula said he wants to solve food wastage problems. Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted each year, amounting to about $1 trillion wasted, he explained to India-West.

"Food waste in Europe alone could feed 200 million hungry people," he said. "It's high time we take the skewed food distribution seriously and make it available for people who actually needs it."

Meanwhile, Nair and Shah said they intend to continue working with the Overseas Volunteers for a Better India.

Nair added he hopes to be part of the OVBI tech team to build more useful solutions, while also exploring new interesting problems/solutions in the consumer internet space and the waste management space.

Shah said, in addition to helping provide visibility, transparency and productivity to everyone involved in high-impact development work in India through OBVI, he has an interest in consumer internet as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

As for the $2,000 reward, the team intends to split it evenly and use the funds to help move their personal projects forward.

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