Plano SHS senior earns national computing award

Plano Senior High School senior Harshal Bharatia was one of four students across the country to earn the ACM/CSTA Cutler-Bell Prize in High School Computing. He will receive a $10,000 cash prize and be formally recognized at the Computer Science Teachers Association’s 2022 Annual Conference, this July in Chicago.

The Cutler-Bell Prize promotes the field of computer science and empowers students to pursue computing challenges beyond the traditional classroom environment. In 2015, David Cutler and Gordon Bell established the award. Cutler is a software engineer, designer, and developer of several operating systems at Digital Equipment Corporation. Bell, an electrical engineer, is researcher emeritus at Microsoft Research.

Bharatia’s project was called, “Thermocloud: A Smart Collaborative Thermostat.” According to a description provided by the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), it used agile methodology and an interactive design and development cycle.

The purpose of the project was to design and construct a cloud-based collaborative learning thermostat that optimizes the operation of HVAC systems by learning to collaborate and use the best machine learning approach to maximize comfort and energy savings for each system.

Using a collaborative cloud-based learning approach across many houses, it learns to adapt the operation of an HVAC system by identifying the best currently-available machine learning approach and uses this approach to maximize comfort and energy savings.

With cost-effective hardware, it enables collaboration with other similar thermostats and controls the HVAC system in a reliable fashion. It also supports additional energy-saving features such as a multi-story equalizer, blackout mitigation, and user-driven cost versus comfort trade-off.

According to ACM officials, this approach was truly innovative as it was domain agnostic and allowed a very large number of clients to lazily update the route mapping and the system automatically addressed degradation as a result feedback triggered automatic cluster refinement, model retraining, and strategy selection to improve performance.

With more than 34% energy savings, Bharatia patented the novel Thermocloud approach and released it in public-domain at intellicusp.org/thermocloud.

By allowing people to freely save energy, Bharatia hopes the fight against climate change leads to a better tomorrow.

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