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UH Hilo’s Team No_Sleep at the 2016 Microsft Imagine Cup U.S. Finals in San Francisco, from left, Bryson Fung, Anthony Vizzone, Reuben Tate and Pauleen Pante. (photos from Microsoft Imagine on flickr, Pre-Day and Competition Day)

April 8 update from UH Hilo Stories: The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo team took part in the 2016 U.S. Imagine Cup championships, March 30–April 1, in San Francisco, California. Although the team was unable to win the national championship, they performed exceedingly well in their booth demo segment and in all around sportsmanship during the event. For more read the UH Hilo Stories article.

Team No Sleep, from left, Anthony Vizzone, Pauleen Pante, Bryson Fung and Reuben Tate. (photo credit: Casey Pearring)

Four seniors from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo are on their way to the Microsoft Imagine Cup U.S. finals held March 31 in San Francisco. Team No Sleep members Bryson Fung, Pauleen Pante, Reuben Tate and Anthony Vizzone are participating in the advanced division of the competition, under the category of World Citizenship. This division of the Imagine Cup is a global competition, with efforts specifically geared toward changing the world for the better.

Tate, a mathematics and computer science major and the team’s mathematics coordinator, says their program is designed with the intent of improving restoration efforts.

Restoring Ecosystems Services Tool

“We have developed a program that guides users in choosing what species of plants are most beneficial for their restoration goals,” he says. “It does this by looking at properties of each plant species, called functional traits, and seeing which plants are functionally similar to one another via a statistical approach called principal components analysis.”

Fung, a computer science major and the lead programmer elaborates, “(The program is) called Restoring Ecosystems Services Tool, or REST for short. Depending on your purpose, the program can help you build ecosystems that are more fire resistant, more preventative of invasive species, or having more carbon storage (giving ecosystems longer lifespans). The list goes on.”

The tool uses trait and data restoration goals to help build ecosystems tailored to the need of the client.

“Biologists will be using the program to help restore the functionality of the local environment,” says Vizzone, a computer science student and the database manager of the team.

Pante is the team leader. She believes their project could do some serious good for Hawaiʻi and eventually have a global impact.

“Around the world, various plant ecosystems are in decline due to factors such as invasive plants, human activity, and plant disease,” she explains. “Restoring these ecosystems is a difficult task since more times than not, it is nearly impossible to restore the ecosystem back to its original state. As a solution, researchers can instead restore ecosystem function by introducing non-native yet non-invasive plants that are similar to their native counterparts as a means of maintaining such ecosystem function. Still, finding similar plants with similar functional traits is not trivial. That is where our program comes in.”

For the full story, see the UH Hilo Stories article.

A UH Hilo Stories article by Shalyn Lewis, a student writer for the UH Hilo Marketing Office.

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