Team Nemo from Malaysia Makes Waves at International Ocean Hackathon 2023 | Asia Pacific University (APU)

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Team Nemo from Malaysia Makes Waves at International Ocean Hackathon 2023

Brenden Tan Poh Guan, Trishah Rajendran, and Wong Weng Hong from APU, together with team members from UMS, UMT, and UM, proceeded to the final round, competing against 14 other teams, mostly made up of PhD students and industry practitioners at the international level Ocean Hackathon in Brest, France.

A group of students from Malaysia has made a big splash at the 5th Ocean Hackathon International Grand Finale 2023, winning 3rd place with their innovative solution, iHAB, an Advancing Management of Harmful Algal Blooms: A High-Performance Predictive Tool for Enhanced Prevention and Mitigation.

There were local Ocean Hackathon events held in 14 different worldwide locations before the final round, which were in Kuala Lumpur and Penang (Malaysia), Bournemouth (United Kingdom), Cape Town (South Africa), and Rimouski (Canada).

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

The grand finale event was officially launched by Michel Gourtay, President of Technopôle Brest-Iroise, and hosted by Rob Gwinner, followed by the 14 pitches by the finalist teams — each team had 6 minutes to explain their concept and 5 minutes to answer the jury’s questions.

The 14 teams who advanced to the final round included those from Canada, Chile, France, Malaysia, Portugal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

Team Toulon (France) won this competition with their design Vanessa, followed by team Concepción (Chile) with Licence to Krill and team Nemo from Malaysia with iHAB design.

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

The success of APU’s undergraduate students 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), along with team members Joeyanatasa Jona Dapanis and Lee Jia Jyet (UMS), Yong Chun Hao (UMT), and Liu Ziwei from Universiti Malaya (UM), becomes more impressive given that they were competing against teams of mostly PhD students and professional marine scientists.

Team Nemo was rewarded RM7,632 for their efforts, but more importantly, they gained valuable experience and established connections with other devoted individuals from around the world.

From Maldives to Malaysia to France

Team Nemo’s journey began at the Ocean Hackathon Maldives 2023, where they developed a ground-breaking tool to predict the movement and growth of red tides while directly addressing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 13 (Climate Action) and Goal 14 (Life Below Water).

Aasiya Nadim Abdul Gani (Digital Marketing), Jessica Annabelle Setiawan (Industrial Design), Chong Ji Xuan (Information Technology), Peyton Ong (Actuarial Studies), and Brenden Tan Poh Guan (Computer Games Development) lead the APU team Phyta.

When the team was taken to the Maldives to compete in the 48-hour hackathon, they were the only international team to proceed to the finals, and they are earning a spot in the top 10 finals of the Ocean Hackathon Maldives 2023.

Team Phyta created an application that uses machine learning and visualisation tools to anticipate the movement and spread of red tides in the Maldives, as well as provide information and warn authorities even before a red tide begins.

Red tide is a dangerous algal bloom that can devastate the marine ecosystem. It is a big worry in both the Maldives and Malaysia, as both countries’ economies and lives rely heavily on the marine ecosystem.

This experience fuelled their passion for marine conservation and gave them the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed at the Ocean Hackathon International Grand Finale.

From top ten to champion to third in the world

Building on their competition experience, the team then embarked on another challenging journey at the Ocean Hackathon 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which was organised by the French Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

This time, the team collaborated with students from different Malaysian universities to form team Nemo, which was led by Brenden Tan Poh Guan together with Trishah Rajendran, Wong Weng Hong, Joeyanatasa Jona Dapanis, Lee Jia Jyet, Yong Chun Hao, and Liu Ziwei.

From that point forward, they developed a web application tool that aims to predict and analyse the growth of harmful algal blooms in the Malaysian ocean, as well as produce and centralise marine data, as well as analyse and predict not only harmful algal blooms, but also more general marine data for the benefit of the marine research community.

The team’s innovative thinking and experiences from the Maldives Ocean Hackathon were key in their victory at the Ocean Hackathon 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, where they were named champions.

“We learn to trust in the process, not worry too much, and not be afraid of seeking guidance and help. The Ocean Hackathon helped us a lot because the lessons, experience, and knowledge that we gained from it helped us in this hackathon in upgrading our solution,” said Brenden representing team Nemo.

Brenden also mentioned Prof. Ir. Eur. Ing. Ts. Dr. Vinesh Thiruchelvam, Ms. Harjinder Kaur, Ms. T.Tulasi Sathyabama Appalasamy, Ms. Fiona Lalitha Sadagopan, Mr. David Ng Kok Meng, Mr. Lee Chee Nian, and Mr. Gobinathan Manickam for their assistance and support.

Brenden highlighted that they experienced several problems during the 48-hour hackathon, reflecting on the obstacles encountered and the main key lessons acquired.

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

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

“This is significant because 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.”

APU Chief Innovation & Enterprise Officer Prof. Ir. Eur. Ing. Ts. Dr. Vinesh Thiruchelvam congratulated the winners and admits that tackling a rising pain point in oceanography, specifically red algal blooms, via digital means is a genius innovative idea.

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

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