MTSU business students tie for top spot in international software innovation challenge

Dec 14, 2023 at 08:30 pm by WGNS News

L to R: Alberto Melchor, Havjin Barkhan, Avery Wriedt, Syd Panak and Gabriel Kapu.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — An enterprising group of Middle Tennessee State University students recently captured the top spot in an international software innovation challenge pitting them against other students from universities across the nation.

The group of five students from the Jennings A. Jones College of Business tied with a group of students from Florida International University in a virtual contest organized by the Association of Information Systems Student Chapters, a networking and professionals development program for undergraduate students studying information systems.


AIS Student Chapter members from around the world met in early November to attend the virtual AIS 2023 Student Chapter Leadership Conference hosted by AIS. Students learned from industry professionals, hosted a leadership workshop and earned awards for their competition solutions, according to the AIS website. The competition judging committees represented both industry and academia.

Students capturing a first-place spot for MTSU were information systems majors Havjin Barkhan, Alberto Melchor, Syd Panak, and Avery Wriedt; and finance major Gabriel Kapu. Faculty advisor was Michael Erskine, associate professor of information systems and analytics, and the team’s coach was Rebecca Nichols, a graduate student majoring in information systems.

The challenge allowed competitors to demonstrate the impact information systems can have in improving the world. Teams designed and implemented an innovative IS solution based on their choice of a number of parameters — focusing mostly on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.

The MTSU team’s entry was titled Team Wastewise in which they developed a product called Wise-X. Their innovative solution is a waste management tracker complemented by an IoT sensor system integrated within a trash can. IoT stands for “Internet of Things,” a reference to a network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances and other physical objects that are embedded with sensors, software and network connectivity that allows them to collect and share data, according to IBM.

The MTSU team’s competition solution included a working Arduino-based sensor prototype encased in a 3D printed shell, a web application, a marketing website, a data portal, and a compelling business case that tied all elements together. Students weren’t allowed to mention their university or show school colors as a part of their entry, Erskine noted.

“This incredible group of talented students represented MTSU with excellence and demonstrated the power of innovative thought and teamwork,” Erskine said. “We eagerly anticipate their continued success at the upcoming AIS Student Chapter Leadership Conference and competitions hosted at Utah State University in the March 2024.”

In their 8 ½-minute video entry for the competition, Panak and Melchor begin their video noting that the UN’s sustainability goals are “an urgent issue” and that “the world is drowning in waste, and the environment is feeling the brunt of it.” The whole team then takes turns outlining how the Wise-X product and accompanying website works.

You can watch their presentation below:

The judges decided to award two first place winners and split the first and second place prizes. Associate Vice President of Student Chapters Alex Barsi Lopes said it was too difficult to decide a first place winner “due to the high quality divergent paths the two teams took with their submissions.”

Capturing third place was the team from New Mexico State University.

AIS student chapters are located primarily at U.S. campuses but also has chapters at universities located in Egypt, Indonesia, Poland, Portugal and Saudi Arabia.

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