A group of young people (including one Mexican) were given an award by MIT for accepting the challenge of finding a way to help Latin America overcome the COVID-19 crisis in different fields.
Holkan Vázquez, a student at Tec de Monterrey, took part in the MIT COVID-19 CHALLENGE, a hackathon organized by the American university to find viable short-term solutions.
The Tec student teamed up with 2 students from Chile and 1 from Colombia to create Smart Deal, a project recognized among the top 3 in the “Verifying the use of funds to reactivate the economy” category.
“We created a web platform to ensure that the loans granted (as support during the COVID-19 crisis) were used to reactivate the economy,” said Holkan.
The team had only 72 hours to develop their proposal.
“(The goal of Smart Deal) is to ensure that money is only spent on approved lines of business. It shouldn’t be squandered. The platform works as a filter between the bank and the supplier,” added Holkan.
The master’s student at Tec de Monterrey took part as the platform’s programmer. The rest of the team was made up of Matías Coustasse and Antonia Urqueta from Chile, and Saulo Linares from Colombia.
When they were recognized as one of the best teams in the hackathon, they received various prizes that will help them develop the platform.
THE SMART DEAL PROPOSAL
Smart Deal is based on Blockchain and SmartContracts technologies, both of which enable secure financial transactions.
The platform will allow the following transactions to take place:
- Companies that have pre-authorized credit from the government or a bank will make a request to use that credit in various areas (such as for payroll or paying suppliers).
- The government or bank will have a virtual ‘wallet’, from which they can transfer funds to these companies through Blockchain.
“This will ensure that electronic transfers from the bank to the company’s account are only approved if they meet requirements,” commented Saulo Linares during the hackathon.
The project is a prototype, but after being ranked among the top 3 in the MIT COVID-19 CHALLENGE, the team are working to make it a reality.
“The idea is to set it up in Chile and deploy it in other countries that are giving large-scale loans, such as Colombia” said Holkan.
PROJECTS FOR LATIN AMERICA IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MIT
The challenge organized by MIT brought together more than 1,500 participants from universities around the world.
Holkan mentioned that he had received the invitation to join the challenge from the Tec de Monterrey School of Government and Public Transformation.
The event was held online from June 19 to 21 and the participants had 72 hours to work on proposals to respond to contemporary problems.
Among the categories in the challenge were topics such as ‘Identifying the COVID-19 Immune’, ‘New ways to deliver care in a COVID-19 world’, and ‘Supporting marginalized communities confronting the pandemic’.
The category in which the Smart Deal team participated was “Verifying the use of funds to reactivate the economy”, in which they reached second place.
That earned them a prize of $300 USD, plus $1,000 USD credit from Amazon Web Services to strengthen their project.
They now also have the option to participate in an Amazon activation program that provides $5,000 USD credit, along with mentoring and other benefits.
LEARNING APPLIED TO PROJECTS
Holkan is currently studying for a master’s degree in Engineering Sciences at Tec de Monterrey’s Mexico City campus.
The 24-year-old says that he was interested in the challenge because he is currently writing a thesis on environmental impact and renewable energies.
“This crisis (the COVID-19 pandemic) has had an impact on everything, both environmentally and economically,” he reflected.
“I like to exchange ideas and my team had lots of ideas. I really liked applying the knowledge I had acquired in my degree,” he added.
Holkan is a Tec graduate who studied Mechatronic Engineering at the Aguascalientes campus.
He was part of the first generation of Leaders of Tomorrow, a 100% scholarship program for young people with limited financial resources but huge academic potential.
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