Mango-sorting idea wins hackathon gong for DKU programmers

A team of Duke Kunshan electrical and computer engineering (ECE) students have won the Best Idea Award at an Alibaba Cloud-organized hackathon for harnessing data technology to automate the quality processing of mangoes.

The first-year graduates – Dongnuo Lyu, Haochi Bai and Ziyuan Wang – received industry praise for the concept at the Flink Forward Asia Hackathon 2021, which challenged competitors to improve user experience in a project of their choice by deploying the Apache Flink engine.

Of the 267 teams registered for the three-month challenge, 27 progressed to last month’s finals and the DKU side was one of three to scoop the best idea prize.

“This award speaks volumes about the high quality of our ECE program and the innovative thinking that we have fostered in students,” said Professor Xin Li, dean of graduate studies and associate dean for research at Duke Kunshan University.

A hackathon is an event in which participants work together in teams on software projects, typically to produce functioning programs by the end of the challenge.

The Flink Forward competition was staged by Alibaba Cloud with the support of Dell Technologies and the communities of Apache Flink, a fourth-generation open-source stream processing framework, and Pravega Chinese, a storage system.

Participants included talented programmers from leading universities and tech companies such as Tsinghua University, the National University of Singapore, Dell and Alibaba.

As well as the best idea awards, an overall winner was declared, along with two runner-up and three third-place teams. Three teams were also recognized for best practices.

The review committee comprised top technology experts including: Jinquan Dai, CTO of big data technologies at Intel; Mei Yuan, Apache Flink engine architect; Yu Teng, founder of the Pravega Chinese community; Long Wang, founder and CEO at Matrix Origin; and Jiangjie Qin, head of Apache Flink and the ecosystem team at Alibaba.

The Duke Kunshan ECE team competed in Shanghai recently in the final challenge to claim the Best Idea Award with their project “Real-time fruit sorting by quality in factory settings based on Flink+Pravega data stream processing”.

From left to right: Dongnuo Lyu, Yu Teng, Ziyuan Wang, Haochi Bai

Their award-winning project focused on automatically sorting mangoes by quality in real time, using the multimedia framework Gstreamer to pre-process image data of the fruit captured by camera. The solution mobilized Apache Flink as the deep learning computational engine and Pravega as the streaming storage system through which to process data images and provide user feedback.

Senior software engineers from Dell Technologies provided valuable guidance to Duke Kunshan team members over the course of the competition. The event was part of the hands-on practice component in the second and third phases of the Dell Open Source Program. Launched on October 29, 2021, the three-phase program was jointly developed by Duke Kunshan ECE program in partnership with Dell Technologies and the Pravega community, aiming to train students in open-source technologies and provide them with networking and work-based learning opportunities.

By participating in the competition, students expanded their knowledge and programming skills in open-source technologies and the Pravega community. “I am really pleased that we won the Best Idea Award,” said team member Bai. “I would like to thank my ECE professors and experts from Dell Technologies for their support and guidance during the competition. I hope more students will join the Pravega community activities in the future.”

The running of the joint program in partnership with Dell Technologies is in keeping with the focus of the ECE program on equipping students for the workplace. As open-source projects have become pervasive in the computer industry, work-based learning experiences are a valuable addition to the resumes of those seeking jobs in this field.

By participating in the hackathon, students had the opportunity to interact with software engineers from well-known companies, helping them to expand their professional network and increase their profile. This interaction of study and work experience fostered creativity and teamwork among the students, developing skills that are directly relevant to future employment.

In addition to the in-depth collaboration with Dell Technologies, the ECE program has been working with other world-leading technology companies to equip students with career resources and give them access to industry expertise. In recent years, the ECE program has partnered with companies including Google, Amazon, Lenovo, Tesla and Mevion Medical Systems to create opportunities such as internships through internal referral, company visits and participation in technology forums.

Professor Xin Li, associate vice-chancellor for graduate studies and research, said: “I am excited about their success. In addition, I would like to thank the Dell Open Source Program for training students in open-source technologies. I am confident that more ECE students will be better positioned for future career success through this program.”

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