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[APU] Future Data Scientists Are National Champions

January 9, 2023 | Campus News

Malaysia Techlympics 2022, the country’s largest-ever initiative to nurture young talents in science, technology and innovation, organised by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) saw Team Three Musketeers representing Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU), emerged as Champion at its Data Science Challenge and walked away RM7,000 cash prize.

Chan See Mun and Lai Mei Sim, both 22, are Computer Science with a specialism in Data Analytics undergraduates, outmanoeuvred opponents from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Monash University Malaysia with “Path to Net Zero”, a solution formulated after a 24-hour ‘datathon’ that aimed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions using the latest technology.

Supervised by Mr Mafas Raheem, Lecturer at APU’s School of Computing, the team embarked on the challenge by taking up a data exploration task, studying the dataset provided by the organiser captured from the online platforms of collection of key metrics – Our World in Data and Climate Watch Data, to understand the relationships between the variables.

“As the dataset contains the societal information of each nation from 1990 to 2019, it set a narration to address the importance of modern industry’s contribution to a country’s economy and filling the needs of people’s energy consumption. However, as modern industry causes a lot of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, therefore, optimal solutions should be proposed for sustainable economic development, ” said Mafas Raheem.

As a result, Chan See Mun and Lai Mei Sim came out with an interactive and comprehensive dashboard, which allows a full understanding of the carbon emission situation. They identified obstacles to achieving the net-zero emission target by proposing target solutions for the identified problems.

“We emphasized the ways to reduce GHG emissions through afforestation, reforestation, negative emission technologies, and hydrogen energy,” said See Mun who is in her second year of studies.

The finals were held on the 26th and 27th of November 2022 at Axiata Arena, Bukit Jalil, where 10 teams were competing intensely. According to Three Musketeers, the competition was fierce since there were many teams consisting of postgraduate students from public and private universities that provided impressive solutions.

Recalling how had they made it, Mei Sim, a final-year student said, “We spent the first two hours exploring and brainstorming to determine the general direction of the project and then start dividing the work to execute it. With the uncertainty of whether our solution met the requirements of the competition, the next 22 hours were bouncing between joy, struggle, diligence and self-doubt.”

“During the most exhausting times, it wasn’t about the prize anymore, but rather the conviction to complete the project ‘Path to Net Zero’ that kept us going. The keys to our win were the synergy of the team, the experiences, and the skillsets we have developed in the past,” she elaborated.

Their supervisor agreed with her statement, by adding, “The girls relied on their experience participating in other competitions, especially ASEAN Data Science Explorers (ASEANDSE) 2022 where they were among the top 15 teams in that competition. Our students always reflect on every competition they went through to seek improvements. For this competition, they tried to use familiar tools such as Microsoft PowerBI and Python-Pandas to develop solutions.”

To be more prepared, the duo communicated and discussed with Mr Mafas Raheem from time to time, especially on how to fully use PowerBI to deliver more meaningful solutions. “Initially, we prepared to build a Machine Learning model on the PowerBI platform, later it was decided to go with data storytelling using an interactive dashboard due to the type of dataset given in the competition,” they explained.

Their strategy proved them right as the team defeated strong competitors and went all the way up to the tip-top. “It was a remarkable achievement, our students once again proved that they are capable of facing real-world Data Science needs,” said Mafas Raheem, contentedly.

On a wider view, three musketeers admitted, Big Earth Data Analytics has become very critical due to the generation of Big Earth Data from satellite observations, Internet-of-Things, model simulations, and other sources. While gearing up for the competition, they realised that applying the right technique to solve a contemporary environmental problem is always vital to offering high-quality information to decision-makers.

“Data analysis is important in impact measurement to assess the effectiveness of a particular policy or technology. The hidden key insights and underlying indicators affecting specific world issues could be identified using data analytics. Hence, professionals could propose solutions to address the problems identified accordingly,” elaborated See Mun and Mei Sim on the essence of their studies.

Furthermore, they pointed out assuredly, data analytics could provide a comprehensive understanding of the current situation, forecasting specific relevant factors which could help data analysts in understanding the possible consequences lying ahead.

Overall, data analysis allows professionals to get the full picture, thus enabling them to translate knowledge into action. With that being said, See Mun and Mei Sim believe that the knowledge they have gained on campus is promising to offer appropriate solutions to the current global challenges which will ultimately benefit the society in future.

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