M’sian undergrads make a splash in ocean hackathon


The Malaysian team comprising students from APU, UMS, UMT and UM took third place in Brest, France. Seen here are APU students (from left) Trishah, Brenden and Weng Hong with the mock cheque.

A GROUP of students from Malaysia made the country proud after emerging third at the 5th Ocean Hackathon International Grand Finale 2023 in Brest, France.

Competing under Team Nemo, their recent win was for an innovative solution called iHAB – an Advancing Management of Harmful Algal Blooms: A High-Performance Predictive Tool for Enhanced Prevention and Mitigation.

Their win was also impressive, given that they competed against teams made up mostly of post-graduate students and professional marine scientists.

Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) School of Marketing and Management head Assoc Prof Dr Devinder Kaur Sarjit Singh said 14 teams managed to make it to the final round.

“Prior to the grand finale, there were local Ocean Hackathon events held in 14 different locations worldwide including in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Bournemouth in the United Kingdom (UK), Cape Town in South Africa and Rimouski in Canada.

“The winning teams from these regional events then competed in the grand finale in Brest, France, to encourage global participation and to solve various maritime concerns from various viewpoints,” she said.

The other teams that participated in the finals were from Canada, Chile, France, Portugal, South Africa and the UK.

France’s Team Toulon won the competition with their design called Vanessa, followed by Chile’s Team Concepcion with “Licence to Krill”.

Assoc Prof Devinder said each team had six minutes to explain their concept and five more to answer the jury’s questions.

Team Nemo, comprising students from APU, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) and Universiti Malaya (UM), impressed the judges with their iHAB web application, a tool that predicts and analyses the growth of harmful algal blooms.

APU was represented by Brenden Tan Poh Guan (Computer Games Development), Trishah Rajendran (Computer Science with a specialism in Data Analytics) and Wong Weng Hong (Actuarial Studies with a specialism in Data Analytics).

Their teammates were Joeyanatasa Jona Dapanis and Lee Jia Jyet (UMS), Yong Chun Hao (UMT) and UM’s Liu Ziwei.

Assoc Prof Devinder said Team Nemo was rewarded EUR1,500 (RM7,632) for their efforts, and more importantly, gained valuable experience and established connections with other devoted individuals from around the world.

Reflecting on the obstacles encountered and the key lessons acquired, Brenden said the team experienced several problems during the 48-hour hackathon.

The most essential lesson they learned was that they should not be afraid to seek assistance and direction, especially from mentors.

“We would not have been able to succeed without the assistance of all our mentors and lecturers.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that one of our mentors, Tan Nian Wei, has helped and led us greatly, especially when we were at our lowest point during the hackathon,” he said.

APU chief innovation and enterprise officer Prof Vinesh Thiruchelvam congratulated the winners and admitted that tackling a rising pain point in oceanography, specifically red algal blooms, via digital means was a genius and innovative idea.

“This idea pushed the students’ creative thinking onto an analytical tool development based on data sets abstracted and deep research conducted.

“The students’ software proficiency is exceptional, making relevance to their strong fundamentals and education garnered on campus,” he said.

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