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Award-winning app to connect international students

25 October 2017
Aeronautical engineering student leading the way
Helping international students navigate a new public transport system, third-year engineering student, Ninad Gudi was part of the winning 2017 Interchange team, an innovative entrepreneurship competition.
Ninad Gudi

Looking for an additional challenge outside of the classroom, Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Aeronautical) student, Ninad Gudi from India considered that an entrepreneurship competition such as Interchange could further build his network and hone his leadership skills.

Selected to represent the University of Sydney, he joined a group of international students from eight Australian universities, with a mission to pitch a new idea for potential industry and commercial application.

"We ended up discussing the problems that we faced as international students when we first came to Sydney and we all  had the same answer," he said.

"Getting accustomed to public transport was persistently the most annoying problem (not necessarily the hardest). So, we decided to do a passion project, where we defined the problem and solution, and came up with the idea of a travel buddy app."

The value proposition behind ConnectUs comes from the anxiety international students feel when they leave University after studying late at night.

"Sometimes you end up waiting quite a while for public transport when all you want is to get home at the end of the day," Ninad added.

"As part of the app, you register using your university email account and connect to other users who are nearby. If that user is heading in the same direction or suburb, you can decide whether you catch public transport together or share a taxi or an UBER with them.

"At the end of the trip, both of you can anonymously rate each other and comment on your trip."

If required, the app includes the option to block a person and an emergency button that alerts authorities and your emergency contacts.

The team's pitch included the addition of location-based advertising, commission options with taxi companies and UBER, and possible application to other industries including health care.

In developing the app, Ninad said that he applied the high-level planning skills that an engineering degree teaches you.

"Aeronautical engineering is one of the most strenuous degrees in the faculty and this helped me stay calm in high pressure situations," he said.

"I was able to keep the team's morale up by creating well-planned schedules and coordinating everyone's availability. All in all, the sense of discipline that engineering imparts came in most handy."

Nearing the end of his studies, Ninad says his degree studies have opened his mind to the depth of engineering as an industry and a profession.

"As people go deeper into their engineering degrees, they tend to narrow down their field and end up sticking with a specific pathway or specialisation," he added.

"I feel like I've gone in the opposite direction and I now realise that directly or indirectly the skills that engineering imparts can be applied almost anywhere!"