08 September 2016 – A team of four NUS Computing students won first prize at the Facebook Singapore Hackathon that was held over the weekend at Facebook’s Singapore office.
They will each receive an all-expense paid trip to compete in the Global Hackathon Finals in November, at Facebook’s Headquarters in Menlo Park, California, USA.
The contest was open to students enrolled in Singapore universities. Over 350 students individually completed a preliminary coding challenge to qualify for the competition. A total of 21 teams, comprised of over 80 shortlisted students, competed in the 24-hour hackathon where contestants were encouraged to disrupt industries and build solutions to alleviate their personal annoyances. Despite having one team member waitlisted and another receiving their invitation late, Bay Chuan Wei, Candiie (Computer Science, CS; Year 4), Harsh Gadodia (Computer Engineering, CEG; Year 2), Samson Tan (CS, Year 2) and Yeo Kai Yan (CEG, Year 2) all qualified and teamed up to develop TombBook.
“TombBook is a Facebook enhancement that memorialises a user's profile when he/she passes away, giving it a diary-like interface, where visitors are able to view the person's friends, albums, etc., and leave messages for the deceased. The user is also able to store messages for his/her friends, to be delivered at a specified time in the future after his/her death. This feature is implemented via a bot on the Messenger platform with an artificial intelligence backend, allowing the user to interact with it using natural language,” explained Chuan Wei. The idea was inspired by the memory of a close friend of Chuan Wei’s who passed away a few years ago.
The team believes that their project stood out because they appealed to people’s emotions and addressed an event that everyone experiences – dealing with the loss of a loved one. They also found their participation in the hackathon to be one of their most rewarding and inspiring experiences, where they developed not only their skills, but also many new friendships. Chuan Wei said, “Personally I didn't sleep at all throughout the hack and there were moments where my code just didn't work and I almost wanted to give up but I told myself not to and if I gave up, the chance might not come again. It was an amazing experience, to learn how to push your limits even when you're already mentally exhausted.”