Students tackle climate change with Tech Mahindra's research arm

11 July 2019
University of Sydney students will this week share their ideas on how to tackle water shortages and air pollution with Tech Mahindra's Makers Lab, marking the completion of the first Industry and Community Project Unit (ICPU) in India.

Introduced as part of the University’s revamped undergraduate curriculum, ICPUs bring undergraduate students from a range of disciplines together to work towards solving the problems of industry partners.

The two groups of third-year students are currently studying arts, commerce, economics, education and engineering at the University of Sydney. They arrived in India city, Pune last week, with academic supervisor Dr Fabian Held and have also been working alongside staff from Tech Mahindra’s research and development arm, Makers Lab.

We need students to look at today’s big issues from all possible angles.
Dr Fabian Held, University of Sydney

With parts of India currently experiencing severe water shortages, Dr Held from the University of Sydney said the need for students to develop different ways of thinking about complex problems has never been more urgent.

“We need students to look at today’s big issues from all possible angles and understand how people are experiencing them. Only with this understanding can we identify solutions that work in practice, not just in theory,” said Dr Held, interdisciplinary lecturer at the University of Sydney.

“The University is committed to preparing all graduates for these challenges with its new graduate qualities.”

Third year student Mushfiqur Rahman was part of a team of students who developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution to India’s urban air pollution.

Above: Pune is one of India's most congested cities


In 1989 the government mandated Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificates for all vehicles on Indian roads. The PUC tests the emissions of a vehicle to make sure it follows standard pollution regulation.

Despite these rules, the team identified a high number of noncompliant vehicles as a major cause of air pollution. In Pune this week, the Sydney students will present an AI-powered number plate recognition system that helps check for valid PUCs at the gates of Tech Mahindra’s campus in Pune.

The system will allow Tech Mahindra to monitor and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and help employees meet government regulations. The project is part of the company’s AI 4 Action campaign to combat climate change.

Air pollution and water scarcity are some of the burning problems that are being addressed through this project.
Nikhil Malhotra, Global Head of Innovation at Tech Mahindra

“This project is a great opportunity for me to not only explore the latest innovations and technological wonders, but also to learn how the application of new technologies are solving modern day business problems,” said Mushfiqur, who is studying a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Sydney.

Another group of students aimed to develop a predictive computer model for water management, which could be applied in different states across India.

The model feeds vital data on populations, water levels, water usage, crop production and rainfall into a platform that shares useful information to urban and rural communities. It will estimate the risk of water shortage for individual regions and provide helpful information that can improve their water management.

“Having this information readily available will help identify areas like Chennai in Tamil Nadu early and will allow communities and policy makers to take preventive actions,” said Christian Neoh, who is studying a Bachelor of Economics and Advanced Studies at the University of Sydney.

Nikhil Malhotra, Global Head of Innovation at Tech Mahindra, said, “Industry and Community Project Unit project held at Tech Mahindra’s Pune campus is a first of its kind interdisciplinary and inter country project that we are undertaking with the University of Sydney students in Pune.

“Air pollution and water scarcity are some of the burning problems that are being addressed through this project. Tech Mahindra’s collaboration, co-research and co-creation with academia is a step toward building a more sustainable future for all.”

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