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Facebook app earns SIAT team global green kudos

August 20, 2008

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Two students at SFU’s Surrey campus School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) earned international recognition recently for their Facebook application GreeNet, a power-consumption monitoring program that employs friendly competition and peer pressure to promote energy conservation.

Kevin Muise and Jin Fan took second place for GreeNet in the interface design category at Microsoft’s annual Imagine Cup technology innovation competition July 8 in Paris, France.

Their win followed a week of intense rivalry among 370 finalists on 124 teams competing in nine different categories. The participants were chosen from a pool of more than 200,000 students from more than 100 countries and regions.

Fellow SIAT student Jason Lin's project made it to the second round of the competition, but Muise and Fan were the only Canadian team to win, picking up $4,000 and some serious professional credibility in the process.

In GreeNet, each Facebook community member starts by planting a virtual seedling, which is connected to a monitor that tracks the member's hydro consumption based on metric data provided by their local electric companies.

“Our system provides its users with an interface that acts as a virtual garden,” the pair write in their competition application, “where their participation in energy-conscious activities effects the growth of plants within that space.”

Users can compare their consumption with their friends and communities. The lower their consumption, the bigger their garden grows.

“Visualizing this information is used to raise awareness of unsustainable practices through providing individuals feedback on energy consumption within their communities,” they write.

"In doing so, our system acts as a means to change energy consumption behavior towards more sustainable practices, not only in individuals, but within society at large.”

Fan, an international student from China, dreamed up the original GreeNet concept last September for SIAT professor Ron Wakkary’s third-year interface design course. Wakkary was so impressed he gave her an A+ and connected her with grad student Muise to develop a prototype. They are now working to launch the application on Facebook.
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