With a virtual iClassroom, 2 Kannur students nail lockdown blues, hit $10,000 jackpot

Bound by necessity, Kerala students develop Facebook like virtual classroom
Shilpa Rajeev and Abhinand C

Some adages are spot on. Necessity is the mother of invention, for instance.

As parents, teachers and academicians scramble to figure out ways to provide uninterrupted learning during the lockdown, two Computer Science students from Government Engineering College, Kannur, have nailed the issue.

They developed a virtual classroom as part of the CODE19 online hackathon and in the process won $10,000.

That is the prize money for the CODE19 online hackathon organised to create open source solutions to tackle the COVID crisis.

Abhinand C and Shilpa Rajeev's iClassroom beat thousands of innovators and developers across the country in a 72-hour online hackathon hosted by Motwani Jadeja Family Foundation from April 11 to 13.

“iClassroom, a virtual platform to connect students and teachers through an interface similar to Facebook, is meant for uninterrupted learning while staying indoors during a pandemic situation like now,” explains Shilpa. And how did they grab the idea? Necessity comes into play here to spur innovation. Abhinand and Shilpa were fed up with the hazards they faced in their online classes during the lockdown time. When word spread about the hackathon, Shilpa and Abhinand discussed the glitches related to online learning and came up with the idea of iClassroom.

“Our classes had many disadvantages. So, the idea was to bring out an interactive, data secure, stable version of a virtual classroom where interaction, resource sharing and progress tracking are integrated,” says Shilpa, daughter of Rajeev, a school teacher, and Sushama, a homemaker.  

They pitched the idea to the organisers and in a few days, it was shortlisted.

“During the three days, we developed a working prototype, which won the prize,” she said.

Sitting at her home in Payyannur, she coordinated with Abhinand, who was at his home in Koothuparamba, virtually.

“iClassroom intends to avoid multiple communication channels like applications to enable peer interaction and communication between teachers and students as in social media. Facilitating combined study, doubt clarification, mentoring and tutoring, the platform helps learning both inside and outside physical classrooms. By merging add-ons to existing features, it will be an integrated solution to virtual learning, especially at the time of a pandemic,” says Abhinand, son of Ashokan P, an army officer, and Jayasree, a homemaker.

The duo, who are classmates and besties, though excited, cautions it is not celebration time yet. “It’s still a working concept in developing stage. There’s a long way to go. The prize, which could be either cash or infrastructure, will be invested for the server and back-end work. We are planning to build a strong team to develop the project,” says Shilpa.

Their elated teachers, friends and family have already pledged support for the project.

They are in touch with the college alumni, seeking support and inputs for the dream mission.

“The college too has promised all facilities for us,” quips Abhinand, who is also the co-founder of an agri-tech startup formed by his friends.

Six students of Manipal Institute of Technology won the second prize – $5,000 – for developing a diagnosis solution for COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers.

Three teams shared the third prize of $3,000. Their innovations were a fake news checker, a platform for shopkeepers and suppliers, and a game which offers ‘coins’ from merchants as rewards.