Provinces continue to produce award-winning youth innovations

Provinces continue to produce award-winning youth innovations

In the latest round of the SWEEP (Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program) Awards for Innovation and Excellence, a team from University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) in Cebu won the grand prize for developing a mobile and web application called BloodSeeker, which connects those in need of blood with potential donors.

Smart has been visiting different schools all over the country to inspire students to create meaningful mobile and digital innovations. Among the speakers are SWEEP Awards alumni like Chino Atilano (far left), a native of Tawi-Tawi who now runs his own technology company.

Metro Manila may be considered the country’s technology hub, but a national competition for innovative student projects is seeing more and more winners coming from the provinces.

In the latest round of the SWEEP (Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program) Awards for Innovation and Excellence, a team from University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) in Cebu won the grand prize for developing a mobile and web application called BloodSeeker, which connects those in need of blood with potential donors.

The students took home P300,000, while their school got a P150,000 grant from Smart Communications.
In its 13-year run, the annual SWEEP Awards has had 10 grand prize winners from the provinces, with Wesleyan University Philippines in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan State University each producing two champion teams.

Changing the world
“We are happy to get a lot of outstanding submissions from students in the provinces, as it is SWEEP’s mission to promote innovation not just in Metro Manila, but all over the country,” said Stephanie Orlino, head of Smart’s education program.

The SWEEP Awards was launched in 2004 to provide college students with the platform to create mobile and digital innovations that solve consumer pain points. It is an initiative under SWEEP, a long-running collaboration between Smart and the academe which aims to raise the standards of engineering and information technology (IT) education in the country.

Promoting a culture of innovation in PH schools
Greg Gabison, dean of the USJ-R College of Information, Computer, and Communications Technology, said the SWEEP Awards has had a “big impact” on the culture of innovation in the university.

“You can see that students are more motivated and inspired to come up with great ideas and tackle social or business issues,” he said.
USJ-R students first joined the SWEEP Awards in 2015, with a team placing third in the final judging. The following year, four teams from the university made the Top 10, out of 230 entries from 52 schools all over the country.

Improving projects via mentorship

Gabison said the SWEEP program contributed to the USJ-R students’ improved performance. “I have to take my hats off to the SWEEP mentoring process. If you check out the original ideas for our projects, you’d find that these were a bit different. The mentoring process added a lot of ideas and increased the viability of the projects.”

As it was calling for entries to the competition, Smart held workshops in different schools all over the country to teach students how to build a business model, how to make a value proposition, and how to make an effective pitch to judges and potential investors.

When the entries were trimmed down to the final 10, Smart brought all student finalists to Makati City for a boot camp. There they were introduced to technical and marketing mentors who taught them the importance of knowing their market and checking out competitors, as well as how to guard against fraud.

“We were impressed by the results. During their presentation to the judges, the students were discussing not just their innovations, but also their business structure. Many of them have even gotten in touch with potential clients already,” Orlino said.

From student projects to startups

One of the mentors was SWEEP Awards alumnus Chino Atilano, whose student project has developed into TimeFree Innovations, a company now valued at $2 million. Atilano and his teammates from Ateneo de Zamboanga University did not win the top prize at the 6th SWEEP Awards, but their project now provides virtual queuing solutions to top businesses here and abroad.

“Having grown up in Tawi-Tawi, I did not even know how to use email and cellular phones. But now I am running my own company. Without SWEEP Awards, I don’t think I would be here,” Atilano said.

He encouraged students, no matter where they are from, to do something about pain points that no one is solving. “If you have an idea that could change the world, all you need to do is take action. SWEEP Awards gives students the opportunity to do that,” he said.

Placing second in the 13th SWEEP Awards was a team from Batangas State University which developed BuyONG (Buy Online-N-Go). This is an app that lets people buy groceries online and pick up their orders via drive-through. The team won P200,000, while their school got P100,000.

Ranking third and getting P100,000 was the Traffix team from Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU). Traffix calculates the optimal route for drivers with multiple destinations. AdMU got a P50,000 grant from Smart.

For more information on SWEEP and the SWEEP Awards, please visit smartsweep.ph. (Press Release)