Smart Alarm Clock Delivering Local News Wins 12th Annual Journalism Development Competition

2019 RJI Student Competition

Winners Will Visit Tech, Media Leaders in Boston Later This Year

By Jennifer Nelson

Columbia, Mo. (April 30, 2019) — A smart alarm clock that delivers local news and advertising, weather, and traffic information as its users wake up is the winner of the 2019 RJI Student Competition.

A team of students from the University of Missouri developed NewSnooze, which utilizes Raspberry Pi and the Google Assistant system. The competition brings together journalism, engineering and business students to tackle a journalism challenge.

2019 RJI Student Competition
The members of Team Six Flags (at bottom) won this year’s RJI Student Competition by developing NewSnooze, which utilizes Raspberry Pi and the Google Assistant system to deliver local news and advertising, weather, and traffic information as its users wake up.

Once the alarm clock goes off, the user can verbally tell Google, “Hey Google, give me more time.” The Google Assistant system responds with, “OK, while waking up…here’s what you might want to know,” and then begins sharing personalized information. The snooze feature continues to feature local news and advertising until the user tells the system that they’re awake.

The team would eventually like to include a feature that would monitor sleep patterns and wake a user up during a time of light sleep to provide better rest for the users.

The team saw a need for a device in the market that would provide both local news and events and offer a sleep monitoring function, said member Ningyuan Hu.

The hope is that NewSnooze will help users wake up right away. Snoozing can be unhealthy in that it cuts into a person’s sleep cycles and going back to sleep tells the body to start a new sleep cycle, according to Robert Rosenberg, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Centers of Prescott Valley and Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona (“Is the snooze button bad for you?“).

“I’m someone who hits the snooze on my alarm a lot, and I think that product could really help me in terms of getting more sleep and also being educated about what’s happening in the community at the same time,” said judge Wendy Lee, a Los Angeles Times reporter.

The team also demonstrated that local deals and promotions could be intertwined with the morning stream. The team surveyed 50 local businesses about advertising and learned that 81 percent would be interested in smart home advertising. Lee said she was impressed by the students’ level of research.

The winning members of Team Six Flags are junior Yongyu Deng, computer science; senior Danting He, journalism; senior Ningyuan Hu, strategic communication; junior Zhebin Weng, economics, and junior Yinting Yu, strategic communication.

Hu said the students ran into their share of challenges and successes.

“Every time we felt like it was the learning process,” Hu said. “We learned new stuff every day. That was meaningful. We have to keep learning in our future job. It makes me want to learn forever.”

Danting He, who is minoring in technology education, added, “this project absolutely got my skills put into practice and [and now I] know why I need it – that minor – and why it’s important and where I can go in my future career.”

Next steps for the team include a trip to Boston later this year where they will meet with media and technology experts and leaders. All teams received an Oculus Go VR headset.

This year’s challenge was to make news more accessible in the smart home by using Internet of Things technologies including single board computers like Arduino, Raspberry Pi or voice computing tools such as Amazon Alexa.

“Better News for the Smart Home was our theme this year and Missouri journalism, business and engineering students brought their best ideas forward,” said Ebony Reed, student competition co-coordinator and director of innovation and the RJI Futures Lab. “The students’ enthusiasm and creativity was evident in their ideas and desire to help move journalism forward for news producers and consumers on smart and connected devices.” Reed served alongside Senior Editor Kat Duncan, who was also co-coordinator of the competition.

The other teams in the competition included:

  • Team Spectra developed a way to aggregate content from news sources around the world and translate articles into English to provide users with a well-rounded perspective on a current event. Users can view headlines from the aggregator on a smart mirror while getting ready for work, and can scan a QR code with their phone if they wish to learn more information. The team was made up of senior Brian Dugan, marketing and political science; junior Jacob Sokora, information technology; senior Alex Ring, journalism; and Jonah Zukosky, computer science. The team behind Spectra was the winning team at the Tiger Hacks Hackathon.
  • Team Wiper developed SoNews, which utilizes Amazon Alexa to allow users to listen to news and post a tweet on Twitter about the article hands-free. Future plans include allowing users to add a caption and post articles to other social media sites. Team members were senior David Dean, computer science; senior Elizabeth Smith, entrepreneurial convergence journalism; senior Isabella Thomas, mathematics and senior Colton Vaughan, strategic communication.

The students presented during the RJI Tech Showcase, which demonstrated technology and journalism projects at the University of Missouri, and featured a keynote speech from Wendy Lee.

The judges for the 12th annual student competition were Stephen Edwards, director of AV sales at Teague iCtrl; Fang Wang, assistant teaching professor at the College of Engineering; Wendy Lee; Mike McKean, associate director of RJI and Errin Stanger, deputy director of The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub.

The teams were mentored throughout the spring semester by Ian Straub, founder and president of Golden Toad Software; Reuben Stern, director of the New York Program at the Missouri School of Journalism and RJI’s director of NYC partnerships; James Gordon, RJI Futures Lab senior editor; Damon Kiesow, Knight Chair in Digital Editing and Producing; and 2018-19 RJI Fellow Thomas Seymat.

The RJI Student Competition is a collaboration between the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, Missouri School of Journalism, MU College of Engineering and the University of Missouri Trulaske College of Business.

Updated: August 15, 2019

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