Lost in the information world? Iowa State students have a device to guide you

AMES, Iowa - You've just landed at the airport and have to sprint for your next flight. But which way do you run?

A team of Iowa State University students has come up with a way for airports -- or any other large operation -- to forward useful messages like that to your cell phone or handheld computer.

And that's a top-10 idea, according to judges of the 2005 Computer Society International Design Competition. Nearly 200 teams from 109 schools entered their ideas for using computers for socially useful applications. The Iowa State team of Christopher Hagen of Cedar Rapids, Andrew Lundberg of Davenport, Janice Wong of Hong Kong and Chun "Reggie" Yu of Clinton are one of 10 teams to advance to the world finals next week in Washington, D.C. The teams are competing for a $20,000 first prize.

Other finalists are from North Carolina State University, China, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and the United Arab Emirates.

Hagen, an Iowa State senior in computer engineering, said the team's device takes advantage of the Bluetooth technology behind short-range, wireless devices. He said an airport might use the team's technology to direct passengers. Or a shopping mall could use it to tell shoppers about sales. Or the device could be used by any other operation looking for a better way to put information in customers' hands.

The world finals will include exhibits in a Washington hotel on Monday, June 27. Each team will also make 30-minute presentations to judges on Tuesday, June 28.

Hagen said the Iowa State team is still working on its presentation. He also said the team is working to solve memory problems in the prototype. So, after spending more than an academic year on their project and making it all the way to the world finals, the students still have more engineering to do.