Augustana students Abemelech Mesfin Belachew ‘24, Manusmriti Budhathoki ‘24, Deepak Krishnaa Govindarajan ‘25 and Prana Mohanty ‘25 were named the grand prize winners of the 2022 Call for Code Global Challenge at an award ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 6, in New York, New York.
The students will take home $200,000 to advance their app, “GardenMate,” along with solution implementation support from IBM and the Call for Code ecosystem.
GardenMate targets the problem of food waste with a marketplace for excess produce, as well as an educational platform for sustainable garden practices. The students were notified in mid-November that their team, “GardenMate,” was a top five finalist among thousands of entries across the globe.
“Winning (is) a game changer for the app,” Belachew said. “The next step is incorporating machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence). Then, we can get more people working on the project. If this project goes worldwide, or even locally, it's actually doing something good, so I'm really excited about that.”
The group is made up of multiple majors — business administration, computer science & software engineering, data science, economics, finance and mathematics. All four are also international students. Govindarajan and Mohanty are from India, Belachew from Ethiopia, and Budhathoki from Nepal.
The students found support from Augustana Call for Code Faculty Representative Dr. Matthew Willard, who helped them land on the idea for GardenMate. The group also recognized the importance of Call for Code’s mission.
“If we can all come together as a society, we can definitely solve this generation’s issues, like global warming,” Govindarajan said. “I feel like Call for Code is making that happen. All the participants — not just the finalists — did something to help sustainability, and that’s what matters.”
This is the fifth Call for Code Global Challenge and second consecutive year that an Augustana team has made it to a final round — last year, Onajite Taire ‘22 and Gedion Alemayehu ‘22 were a part of a team that was named a global finalist for the 2021 Call for Code University Challenge.
“Solving such big problems seems attainable, but we just need to focus on what our team can do about it and do our best,” Mohanty said. “And, when everybody does their best, the only outcome that I can see is success. But, let's say that we did not succeed — that does not mean we stopped. We are still motivated, so we just keep going until we succeed.”