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UF students Troy Gittelmacher, Jean-Ralph Aviles, Bernard Marger and Georgia Institute of Technology student Faizan Virani, show their invention, Gun Loc, a device that uses an app to alert gun owners whenever their gun has been moved, at Microsoft’s 2016 U.S. Imagine Cup competition in San Francisco.

A UF team competed nationally and won the people’s choice award for its gun-safety device Thursday night.

Three UF students and one student from the Georgia Institute of Technology competed in the innovation category at Microsoft’s 2016 U.S. Imagine Cup competition in San Francisco. Their design, Gun Loc, can be the size of a Cheez-It and sticks to a gun. It allows the gun’s owner to track its location and know whether it’s been fired.

The four came up with the idea while traveling to the University of Illinois’ hack-athon, HackIllinois, in February. The team made a software program within 36 hours, said Bernard Marger, a UF computer engineering senior.

During the competition, the team created the app to track a gun and won third place overall, the 21-year-old said.

The team’s device measures the vibrations and movement made when a gun is picked up, he said.

The team also won first place in Microsoft’s category for using Azure, a Microsoft online cloud computer storage and backup program, said Jean-Ralph Aviles, a UF computer engineering senior.

A few weeks after HackIllinois, the team’s members got an email from Microsoft urging them to apply to the company’s 2016 U.S. Imagine Cup competition, the 22-year-old said.

“We weren’t expecting much, but we got the email from the Microsoft recruiter and entered our product in,” he said, “Now we’re in San Francisco.”

Marger said his team created Gun Loc to let gun owners know where their guns are at all times.

“Basically, this is bringing us closer to protected firearms,” he said.

This is the first time a UF team has made it to the national competition, he said. This team was also the only one at the competition to have a member from another school.

Faizan Virani, a Georgia Tech computer science sophomore, decided to join Marger’s team during the 18-hour trip to Illinois.  

“It’s amazing that by meeting (Marger) in one hack-athon led to this,” the 19-year-old said.

Troy Gittelmacher, a UF computer engineering senior, said the experience has been surreal.

“Making a project in 36 hours at a hack-athon has turned into this,” the 21-year-old said.  “It’s been an eye-opening experience on how the demand for new ideas is growing.”

Marger said a Gainesville gun distributor has contacted the team’s members about selling the software, but they haven’t decided yet whether they want to sell it.

“I was not expecting that, but that is a wide-open door if we want to do that,” he said.