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Salford wins Science Festival computing 'hack'

Wednesday 1 November 2017

COMPUTER Science students from the University of Salford have won the ‘HackManchester’ coding competition, as part of the Manchester Science Festival.

Rob Marsh, Aleksandr Konopackis, Mikus Sabanskis and David Jimenez saw off competition from other universities in the North West, including the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and the University of Liverpool, to win the ‘University Challenge’ category. 

Competitors are given just 24-hours to digitalise, or ‘hack’ an innovative idea, and the Salford team created a website and app for Public Health England’s ‘National Poisons Information Service’, to take pressure off of their 24/7 hotline. 

Rob Marsh, who is studying for his BSc in Computer Science and Cyber Security, explains: “Currently we are spending tens of thousands of pounds per day offering guidance and support to victims of poisoning, when 80% are mildly or non-toxic.

Cross-platform app 

“We took existing barcodes on products to give a poison control response directly to a mobile phone. The first service we built allowed users to scan a barcode and send this to a number, which would immediately reply via text message with information on the severity of the poison, and how next to proceed.

“We then built a website which allowed the scanning of products using webcam. 

“Finally, we had a cross-platform app. This automatically took your phone number, location and camera privileges. Once a product was scanned, if the severity was high the app would immediately contact the emergency services, providing your location.” 

The team heard about the competition through their involvement with the University’s Computing Society

Industry contacts 

Mikus Sabanskis, a BSc Computer Science student, says: “We were coming into contact with industry professionals and HackManchester veterans, but the Salford University teams are all quite close and we like to help each other out.”

Rob added: “I would like to thank Dr David Newton, Dr Rob Aspin and Dr Andrew Young who came to wish us well during the competition.

“They are all great mentors, who they really believe in our talents and understand our passion for computing. It gives you the confidence to do something amazing like this when the people you look up to have your back.”