20 March 2019 – A team of three NUS Computing undergraduates won first place in the IBM prize category at HackNYU, New York University’s annual student-run hackathon. The competition was held from 15 to 17 February in New York, USA.
The team of third year students, consisting of Computer Science students Shradheya Thakre and Kushagra Goyal, Business Analytics student Terence Lim, with NUS Communications and New Media student Junel Seet, competed against 103 other teams in the global hackathon held in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. At the hackathon, teams are challenged to develop a project to address one of four social initiatives – health and well-being, sustainability, education, and financial empowerment. The NUS team is currently on a 12-month NUS Overseas Colleges programme this semester.
“As students, we study using lecture slides, e-books and digital resources in the form of PDF files every day,” said Kushagra, on behalf of his team. “This means opening your PDF files in one tab, then simultaneously searching for keywords and topics you don’t understand in five other tabs. Furthermore, we are often studying from notes and books written years ago and do not include the latest developments and news on the topic.”
To help make e-learning more effective for students today, the team developed a smart e-learning tool, Learnwise, that fetches relevant definitions and news articles related to the concepts found in PDF files in real-time. “The digital curriculum has taken over educational resources and projections show that the e-learning market worldwide is forecasted to surpass US $243 billion by 2022,” Kushagra added. “That is why we wanted to enhance the learning experience with Learnwise. With this platform, you no longer have to go through the hassle of switching to different tabs to search for key concepts on every article.”
While creating Learnwise, the team used IBM Watson, an open, multi-cloud artificial intelligence platform. The use of the platform helped the team clinch first place in the “Best Use of the IBM Cloud Watson” category prize – one of nine sponsor prizes given out at the competition. “It was challenging having to integrate multiple APIs, including IBM Watson NLU, IBM Watson Discovery and Agolo summarisation, to make something useful in 36 hours,” Kushagra added. “However, it was incredibly satisfying to develop a useful product in such a short time span. It has been a memorable experience for all of us, as it was everyone’s first win at a hackathon and Junel’s very first hackathon as well.”