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CICS Undergrad Anirudh Sathiya Narayanan Leads Intercollegiate Team to Win at TreeHacks 2023

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Anirudh Sathiya Narayanan

An intercollegiate team led by Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) undergraduate student Anirudh Sathiya Narayanan recently won the TreeHacks 2023 Best Hack Using AI/ML prize at Stanford University for their project “Surge Protector.”

Inspired by personal experiences, teammates Narayanan, Saatvik Billa (University of California Berkeley), Archna Sobti (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), and Max Weinreb (University of Texas Austin) developed the winning software to lessen the threat of serious accidents and delayed medical responses at heavily populated events and concerts like those experienced during the 2021 Astroworld incident.  

“I was devastated when I found out about the Astroworld incident in Houston in which ten people were killed and many more were injured due to a crowd surge,” explains Sathiya Narayanan. “And in my own experience at another concert, I watched authorities struggle through a chaotic crowd to locate someone in dire need of medical attention. It further cemented my belief that concerts should and could be a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone.”  

The winning project pairs drone technology with a dilated convolutional neural network—a type of deep learning algorithm commonly utilized in image and video recognition tasks to recognize images and find important patterns—to monitor crowded locations like concerts and public protests, find areas with the highest densities, and alert organizers or authorities to potential stampedes or other medical emergencies.  

“Surge Protector is currently the only solution that uses drones for crowd management. Not only can it detect complex crowd flows in poor lighting, but it can also be used for quick communications and guiding medical authorities to the scene of a potential incident,” says Sathiya Narayanan. 

TreeHacks is a 36-hour hackathon at Stanford University, which this year boasted over 1,000 participants from over 30 universities and 12 countries.  

See all of the winners from TreeHacks 2023.