Illinois Tech Team Wins 2022 Keysight Innovation Challenge with Novel IoT Device to Optimize Tree Planting for Carbon Sequestration
Illinois Institute of Technology students take top prize with Tree of Life carbon capture device to monitor carbon emissions and optimize tree planting for carbon sequestration
CHICAGO—A team of Illinois Institute of Technology students has won the top prize in the Keysight Innovation Challenge 2022 for their novel “Tree of Life” technology—an Internet of Things device that will monitor soil and atmospheric conditions to help users decide which plants to grow to best sequester carbon and combat climate change.
The team of six Illinois Tech students presented their design to a panel of esteemed judges in Santa Rosa, California, on October 29, 2022, as part of the annual competition organized by Keysight Technologies Inc. The Illinois Tech team came in first out of 52 teams from around the globe and won $30,000 in cash, plus $10,000 worth of Keysight test equipment for Illinois Tech.
The team includes Chloe Rubinowicz (EE, M.S. EE 5th Year), Saurabh Saluja (CPE, M.S. CPE 5th Year), Colin Prochnow (CCSE, M.S. CPE 5th Year), Kaya Jones (CS 2nd Year), Anthony Banuelos (CCSE, M.A.S. CYF 5th Year), and Katarzyna Staron (ME, M.S. ME 5th Year).
“Our team learned and experienced more from this project than anything else we’ve done before,” says Chloe Rubinowicz (EE, M.S. EE 5th Year). “This has served as a pivotal moment for us, learning to work with a team to develop an idea and actualize it. Winning this competition has been surreal, and we’re so excited to see where our team goes from here.”
The team says Tree of Life was designed as a response to the urgent need for solutions to curb carbon emissions.
“If we don’t act now, the consequences will be irreversible,” says Rubinowicz, lead of the Illinois Tech team.
True to its name, the team’s groundbreaking device resembles a small tree. It’s “planted” in soil, where the in-ground sensor measures moisture level, electrical conductivity, temperature, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and pH. Above ground, the device reads temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide concentration, as well as GPS data and images from four cameras. Using that data and a database of more than 2,000 trees, an algorithm will determine what plants will grow best in the environment and remove the most CO2 from the atmosphere. The analyses and recommendations provided can also be scaled to large areas using additional inputs such as satellite imagery.
“According to NASA, it would take 500 billion trees to offset the carbon emissions since 1990, which is a great undertaking. Luckily with our device, we can decrease the amount of trees by 30 percent,” says Saurabh Saluja (CPE, M.S. CPE 5th Year). “There’s no better time to start than now.”
The team has also built a website for the device that provides further analysis of the data collected including the estimated impact of planted trees, cost estimates, and recommendations of local nurseries where recommended trees can be purchased.
“At Illinois Tech, students are called to be purpose-driven citizens. Our university was born to liberate the collective power of difference to drive innovation for all,” says Illinois Tech President Raj Echambadi. “The team’s fantastic work in producing this innovation to tackle one of the grand challenges of our time perfectly exemplifies the kind of drive to discovery we aim to develop in our students.”
The Keysight Innovation Challenge is a design competition challenging graduate and undergraduate engineering and computer science students to conceptualize an Internet of Things (IoT) device or network of devices that will provide carbon neutrality monitoring at the community or corporate level. The contest supported Keysight's goal to achieve carbon neutrality within its Corporate Social Responsibility policies. It aimed to inspire innovation to help the world reach net zero by 2050 and required each team to be woman-led to encourage gender diversity in STEM.
“It was fascinating to see the wide range of innovative solutions each student team created when posed the same challenge: to design an IoT device that will help the world reach net zero,” said Jeff Harris, vice president of portfolio and corporate marketing at Keysight, who also served as a judge and co-sponsor of the Keysight Innovation Challenge. “Each team looked at the question from a different angle and formed a unique solution. I’m excited for the future when we see this level of innovation and enthusiasm from our next generation of engineers.”
A panel of eight semifinal judges evaluated teams on metrics such as sensor effectiveness, AI capabilities, and cybersecurity resilience, with device prototypes evaluated by Keysight’s IoT Security Assessment software. The general public also played a role in judging by voting for their favorite design entries. These votes contributed to 10 percent of each entrant’s overall score.
For more information about the 2022 Innovation Challenge, check out the competition video or go to the event website at: www.keysightinnovationchallenge.com. For images of finalists, media can visit: www.keysight.com/find/innowinner-2022-images
Image caption: (from left) Jeff Harris, Vice President, Keysight Corporate and Portfolio Marketing, the winning Illinois Institute of Technology team (from left), Chloe Rubinowicz, Colin Prochnow, Saurabh Saluja, and Katarzyna Staron with their prototype, and Mark Pierpoint, Senior Vice President and President of Network Applications and Security at Keysight (right).
Illinois Institute of Technology
Based in the global metropolis of Chicago, Illinois Tech was born to liberate the collective power of difference to advance technology and progress for all. It is the only tech-focused university in the city, and it stands at the crossroads of exploration and invention, advancing the future of Chicago and the world. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, computing, architecture, business, design, science and human sciences, and law. Illinois Tech students are guaranteed hands-on experiences, personalized mentorship, and job readiness through the university's one-of-a-kind Elevate program. Its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Its faculty and alumni built the Chicago skyline. And every day in the living lab of the city, Illinois Tech fuels breakthroughs that change lives. Visit iit.edu.
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Illinois Institute of Technology
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