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Don’t sleep on RJI Student Competition winner NewSnooze

Students pose with prizes, including a set of VR goggles.

Team Six Flags won the 2019 Reynolds Journalism Institute Student Competition.

In the age of smart phones and the Internet of Things, the way people get their news is continually evolving, and the journalism industry is constantly working to improve the experience and convenience of news consumption.

The College of Engineering, the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and Trulaske College of Business team up each year to crown top student projects in this field. The winner of this year’s RJI Student Competition developed a way to deliver the news as you snooze, in a manner of speaking.

This year’s challenge was to utilize smart home technologies such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home to make news more accessible for users. Team Six Flags — junior Yongyu Deng, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Journalism majors Danting He, Ningyuan Hu and Yinting Yu; and Economics major Zhebin Weng — took home the top prize for their app, NewSnooze.

NewSnooze uses Raspberry Pi and Google Assistant technology to fill the snooze cycle of a user’s morning alarm with personalized local news and advertisements. Frequent snoozing, according to experts, disrupts a person’s natural sleep cycle and can lead to an unshakable feeling of grogginess during the day. NewSnooze aids the wake-up process by keeping the body from falling into a new, abruptly short sleep cycle, and provides the user with information of importance while doing so.

Local ads can be integrated into the stream, and the team’s survey of 50 local businesses showed that 81 percent would be interested in advertising through their platform or something similar.

“We were concerned about the sleep cycle, and we wanted to wake people up more efficiently while delivering information,” Deng explained. “We made a lot of adjustments through the whole process. Using Raspberry Pi gave us the freedom to do more of what we wanted.”

NewSnooze edged out fellow finalists Spectra, which claimed the top spot at the TigerHacks hackathon last fall, and Team Wiper’s SoNews for first place.

Spectra aggregates content from news sources worldwide and translates it seamlessly into English to give English-speaking news consumers greater access to reporting from global sources. Team Spectra included Engineering students Jacob Sokora and Jonah Zukosky and Journalism students Brian Dugan and Alex Ring.

SoNews utilizes the Amazon Echo to allow users to integrate easy social media sharing of reports they hear on the device. Its development team, Team Wiper, was comprised of Engineering student David Dean, mathematics major Isabella Thomas and Journalism students Elizabeth Smith and Colton Vaughan.

“Better News for the Smart Home was our theme this year, and Missouri Journalism, Business and Engineering students brought their best ideas forward,” Ebony Reed, student competition co-coordinator and director of innovation and the RJI Futures Lab, told the Reynolds Journalism Institute. “The students’ enthusiasm and creativity were evident in their ideas and desire to help move journalism forward for news producers and consumers on smart and connected devices.”

Team Six Flags will head to Boston later this year to meet with experts in media and technology. They hope to add features that monitor sleep patterns and rouse users during a time of light sleep in the morning.

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