Taylor's University students emerge victorious in NASA Space App Challenge

Two student groups from Taylor's University School of Computing & IT were declared champions in the Malaysian leg of the NASA Space App Challenge 2017, under two local award categories - Ideathon, where one winner was picked out of 10 teams; and ​​​​​​Social Networking Services​ (SNS) Contents, picked out of five teams. 
 
“We are tremendously proud of our students having taken part in a worldwide competition and one as recognisable as NASA,” said Dr. David Asirvatham, Head of School for the School of Computing & IT. “Their prowess in coding and entrepreneurial skills was clearly demonstrated. These skills are incredibly valuable in today’s job market. ”
 
​The NASA Space Apps Challenge is a two-day hackathon organised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United States of America (USA). The competition was open for everyone across the globe - technologists, scientists, designers, artists, educators, entrepreneurs, developers and students in an effort to collaborate and engage with publicly available data to design innovative solutions for global challenges.
 

Student teams from Taylor’s University race against time crunching codes to produce apps which will benefit Earth in the long run during the NASA Space App Challenge recently
 
In Malaysia this year, a total of 570 participants, in 157 teams, joined the NASA hackathon held at Petrosains, the Discovery Centre at Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC). This year’s theme for NASA Space Apps Challenge 2017 is Earth.​​ ​
 
The Ideathon (10 categories) champion are from an all-girls team called Arceus – with group leader, Yap Ly Dion pursuing her degree in the Bachelor of Computer Science (Honours)(Computer Security and Forensics) and team members, Abigail Achiamma Joshua, in the Bachelor of Computer Science (Honours)(Computer Security and Forensics); Catherine Labial John, Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours)(Internet Technologies); Samanza Kishwar Parvez, Bachelor of Computer Science (Honours) and Audrey Chan Qian Ying (Monash University).
 
According to Ly Dion, “We decided to participate in the Internet of Things category, of which we chose the ECO sub-category. In two days, we needed to come up with a solution for a new app which would benefit Earth and make a positive impact.”
 
“We designed an app called ReCyclone, where users can recycle their waste in our designated ‘box’ and are able to claim points by scanning the QR code displayed on the ‘box’. The amount of points varies, based on the quantity and type of items recycled. When the user collects enough points, they are rewarded with voucher from our mobile application.”


Taylor’s University student teams present their app to the judges during the NASA Space App Challenge held at Petrosains, KLCC recently
 
For the Ideathon (SNS) champion, the all-boys team, called Syntax, was from the Foundation in Computing programme. They are Aqlan Hadi Bin Nor Azman, Lim Ming Jun and Adam Bin Omran – led by Roshen Maghandren.
 
Like team Arceus, Syntax had 48 hours to build an app related to Social Networking Services and came up with an app called Gather. “The app acts as a platform to connect people with common interests to do activities together. Users are allowed to create their own activity or join an event based on their interests. For example, if a person wants to play futsal, they can arrange the time, place, number of members required and the duration of the activity. The app can then help find the remaining members to play the game.”
 
Though not limited to sports, the app is open to activities fit for the users’ interests, including gatherings, and users can scroll through activities happening near them. If users require further information, they are free to contact the organiser.

“When we presented it, we were pleased to hear the judges’ commendations of our efforts. It made hours of continuous programming worthwhile and helped maximise our time efficiently, even under pressure.”
 
The competition saw 150 students from the School of Computing & IT taking part in this global Challenge with the vision and mission to improve the quality of life on Earth and beyond, with amazing innovative ideas as we move toward the next evolution of mankind.
 
During the finals, four teams, out of five in the Ideathon category, were student teams from Taylor’s University - while the Ideathon (SNS) category saw three Taylor’s University student teams in the top five finalists.

 
Champions of the NASA Space App Challenge 2017, Syntax (left) and Arceus (right) posing with their wins, are students from Taylor’s University School of Computing & IT
 
For Ly Dion, “We had not expected to make it past the second round; however the judges’ feedback helped us refine our app to polish its appeal for users. Although the time constraint was tough on all of us, our efforts paid off when we were named champion.”
 
“The competition helped us gain a lot of confidence and experience in the real world. We have a very good idea of what to consider when building an app and making it marketable, which is a great advantage to possess,” she concluded.
 
The students' participation was a part of their Project-Based Learning (PBL) group assignment - an Introduction to Computing (Foundation), Introduction to Algorithm and Problem Solving (Foundation), Fundamentals of Data Communications (Year 2 students in undergraduate degree), and Artificial Intelligence (Year 3 students pursuing their undergraduate degree). SoCIT senior lecturer Mr Tee Wee Jing and lecturer Ms Sumathi Balakrishnan integrated the rigorous requirements of NASA hackathon into the PBL group assignment to meet the ever-changing demands of industry, society and globalisation.

The event became the largest ever held, with participation from 69 countries from 187 locations and around 25, 000 contestants going head to head with challenges to understand our home planet, Earth. 


A group snapshot of the winners at the NASA Space App Challenge at Petrosains, KLCC recently