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ODU Engineering Management Team Wins NATO Global Innovation Challenge

By Noell Saunders

A team of faculty and students from Old Dominion University's Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering recently won a total of $25,000 for their creative business model at the University's first NATO global innovation challenge.

The $15,000 ODU Lion's Lair — Hillier Ignite prize was awarded to the team as well as a $10,000 service package for business model creation and validation through ODU's Center for Enterprise Innovation's TempO program.

The event was held in conjunction with ODU's "Lion's Lair" Competition this year. The theme of the competition was finding more effective ways to help NATO and other disaster response organizations to stabilize troubled areas and save lives following a major event.

The winning team, which included engineering management professors Mamadou Seck, Ghaith Rabadi and Jingwei Huang; and Ph.D. students Hesamoddin Tahami, Chris Knight and Wael Khallouli, presented a project that used social media and big data algorithms to assign the best relief job to the right group of personnel and volunteers in the event of a disaster.

"We can look at recent examples like Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Katrina where authorities were overwhelmed," said team leader Mamadou Seck. "People were calling 911 lines and were not able to get through. We see more people turning to social media to air their request for support.

"You also have multiple organizations like the Red Cross working on the same location but without any coordination layered between which is an inefficient use of resources," Seck continued. "This project addresses situational awareness so at every moment we know where help is needed."

Out of ten finalists from the U.S., United Kingdom and Belgium, the ODU team's project was selected Oct. 27 by a panel of judges inside the Darden College of Education's auditorium.

"This is a prototype of the kind of event and collaboration that we are trying to foster. It helps the region, the institution and all of our partners," said Marty Kaszubowski, the Center for Enterprise Innovation's executive director.

The second winning team in the NATO Innovation Challenge was a group from the United Kingdom called What3Words.

The group created a geocoding system that encodes geographic coordinates into three dictionary words instead of using long strings of letters or numbers like other location encoding systems. This particular project helps with communication during disasters as well as postal deliveries, navigation and asset management.

What3Words was also awarded a $10,000 service package from ODU's Center for Enterprise Innovation's TempO program and a fully paid trip to NATO's annual Transformation Conference in December.

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