Canberra engineering student Sherbaz Hashmi is a name to look out for.
Into his third year of a Bachelor of Software Engineering at the Australian National University (ANU), Hashmi and his team recently won the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Week Hackathon, held in Canberra late last year.
Their app prototype, Our Map, uses GIS technology to preserve and share Indigenous knowledge.
“Indigenous communities associate stories with points of interest on the land,” Hashmi said.
“We thought of linking these in a geospatial format so that stories can be recorded within the cartographic bound of a map and augmented … [Our Map] empowers Indigenous communities to preserve and share their fundamental knowledge, which is somewhat under threat right now.”
These challenges represented locally relevant issues that could be addressed using Earth observation (EO) data, such as satellite imagery, remote sensing and in-situ data.
Teams were mentored by representatives from Indigenous communities and Earth observation experts, and together worked to develop solutions that addressed the challenges through combining traditional knowledge and science.
“The team walked out of that very inspired,” Hashmi said of the experience.
“We’re now seeking to take the app further, because we found something we’re very passionate about here. I’m looking into government grants right now to see whether there’s a potential for building this app, [and] I’ve been in talks with different Indigenous communities to see if they’d be willing to go forward with the pilot program.”
New solutions to old problems
Hashmi’s entrepreneurial nature doesn’t stop there. He also won the 2019 Esri Australia Young Scholar Award for Shout Out, a project that aims to streamline the process for reporting public issues such as graffiti.
And earlier in his degree, Hashmi won an InnovationACT grant to develop a mentor-matching platform connecting students with professionals.
“I feel like I’ve always been very driven to find new solutions to old problems that have been solved conventionally,” Hashmi told create.
“I always think there’s room for improvement. The validation that the project received during and after the Hackathon win enabled us to work towards significantly developing the idea and working on bringing it to reality.”