QR Codes for Good

July 19, 2019

Project Title: Payment Transaction System Using QR Codes

Team 18080 Members:
Muneeb Ahmed, electrical and computer engineering
Amanda Ruth Chesin, electrical and computer engineering
Corey Justin Miner, electrical and computer engineering
Sanarya Salah, systems engineering
Benjamin Paul Wodhams, electrical and computer engineering

Sponsor: Microsoft

No Cash, No Problem

A homeless man holding a sign asking for money on a freeway ramp first got Microsoft employees Nick Keehn and Holly Beale thinking. Would-be donators were driving by too fast to stop and give the man anything. For that matter, most people don’t carry cash anymore. Maybe a phone application was the answer.

That’s how senior design project 18080 was born.

A team of University of Arizona electrical and computer engineering majors and a systems engineering major developed a website and phone application for users to create and print QR codes, which can be scanned and used for secure payment.

“The idea is to provide an application for homeless people, or people who have jobs based on tips, like waiters and doormen,” said systems engineering team member and alumna Sanarya Salah. “When people are driving or need to leave a tip, they can just scan the QR code.”

Here’s how it works: People wishing to leave a tip or make a donation take a photo of the QR code on their smartphones and are directed to download the app. Then they link their payment information and select how much they want to donate. With an anonymity option, maximum donation limit, automatic logout function and — perhaps most importantly — secure information storage, the payment method is safe.

“The code is encrypted, so even we, the developers, can’t go and see financial information,” Salah said.

From School Project to City Streets

Microsoft sponsored its first Engineering Design Program project in 2017-2018, and Beale and Keehn decided this would be a good fit for the company’s second year with the program.

“It’s just good to interact with the next generation of engineers,” said Keehn, a senior automation engineer at Microsoft. “I wish my school had this senior design, where it reached out to industry instead of having internal projects that didn’t have any bearing on real life.”

The QR code payment system may have a bearing on real life sooner than the team realized.

Microsoft is looking to collaborate with a business school, perhaps the UA’s own Eller College of Management, to take the project to another city, such as Chicago. The business students will collaborate with homeless shelters on a way for people to make donations using the app.

“The UA team was just great from start to finish,” Keehn said. “They were self-paced, on time and under budget.”

Job-Ready Graduates

The senior design project left team members, who won the $2,500 Microsoft Award for Best System Software Design at Engineering Design Day 2019, well prepared for their new roles.

Amanda Chesin accepted a position with American Express, Corey Miner is working at Facebook, and Salah has a full-time job with Caterpillar’s software team.

“Part of what I do here is work with the graphical interfaces for the operators,” said Salah. “So, it’s really nice I gained skills like knowing how to model the screen, or understanding what’s user friendly and what’s not.”

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