13 November 2015 – Second year Information Systems students Ron Teo De-Zhao and Yang Jing recently won the Best Innovation (Asia Pacific) prize at Taiwan’s 2015 International ICT Innovative Services (InnoServe) Contest, for their summer project ATHENA.

The contest provides a prominent platform for students to present their work, as well as an opportunity to promote collaborations between universities and the industry. Originally established to showcase Taiwan’s university students’ final year IT projects, the contest has since broadened and the winners of national ICT competitions in Asia Pacific and China are also invited to compete. According to the organisers, this year, a total of 4,500 contestants from 92 tertiary institutions from various nations competed. The finals were held on 31 October at the National Taiwan University Sports Center.

Ron was at the contest alone, and so faced the challenge of presenting his work to over 30 groups of people consecutively, from 9am to 3pm, in both English and Mandarin, by himself. “It was both exciting and stressful for me because I was competing against teams of 3-5 people, all in their final year of study with their final year projects. Whereas, I am just a year 2 student with my summer project [that was] done within 2 months,” Ron said.

Describing their work, Ron said, “There are an increasing number of female travellers who have either travelled alone or are planning to do so. And during overseas traveling, they are often concerned about their own safety when they are taking a taxi, walking down a quiet alley, buying food late at night or travelling in remote areas. With this problem in mind, Athena was conceptualized to protect the females when they are traveling alone. Athena is a crowd-based safety mobile application for solo female travellers. Athena crowd-sources ‘dangerous’ areas through its community and alerts its user through periodic tracking -- alerting the users when they are near. During emergencies, Athena has an alarm system that can be activated both automatically and manually to request help from the pre-set list of contacts. Athena also comes with vital information such as nearby police stations and hospitals for every country.”

“We developed and designed ATHENA with the help of a very specific focus group -- past victims of local assault cases. Information gained from this group helped ATHENA stand out against the competition, as we were really focused on the user’s experience and the functionality of the application,” Ron further explained. Ron was really surprised when he learnt that Athena won, because the competition was really tough, but was pleased at the recognition that what they built could truly help people. “One of my biggest motivations to go for this contest was to let others know that even something as small as a summer project can go international. The idea is to never let anything restrict ourselves or our project and always strive to get the most out of modules like the Orbital Project,” he added.

ATHENA is Ron’s first attempt at developing a mobile application. It was also one of the finalists for the Singapore infocoom Technology Federation (SiTF) Awards. He believes that other Orbital projects could be equally successful and acknowledges the support of Associate Professor Kan Min-Yen and Professor Lee Wee Sun for their achievement.

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Asia Pacific winners with Vice President Wu Den-yih of Taiwan.