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In 2008, Yamini Girey flew from India to the United States to start her graduate studies. On a stopover in Frankfurt, she bumped into Krishna Rao, who just happened to be heading to the same school, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The pair hit it off immediately.
“We might not have met any other way because we’re in different areas,” Rao said at the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals on Sunday.
The two teammates on Coders Inc. were in Washington, D.C., to present their project, AwareNet, which relies on the same serendipity they found in the Frankfurt airport to help connect those in need with those ready to give.
AwareNet is an attempt to build a platform where nongovernmental organizations, volunteers, donors, and vendors can meet and share resources, Girey explained. They stumbled onto the idea during their initial brainstorming sessions for an Imagine Cup project.
“We searched on the Internet for ways to solve some of the United Nations Millennium Goals,” Rao said. “For every search, we kept running into the same questions — how, where, when.”
Instead of using technology to help get resources to rural schools and villages, the team decided to focus on putting volunteers and donors in touch with the nonprofit organizations that need help. Without their help, the search is often akin to finding a needle in a haystack, the team said.
Rao and Girey heard about the Imagine Cup last year at an IIT info session about jobs at Microsoft. Girey reached out to a former classmate of hers in India, Shayok Mukhopadhyay, who is now a graduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology. In the months leading up to the submission deadline, the team relied on Skype and a mastery of time zones to get work done from across long distances, Mukhopadhyay said.