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10 Nov 2021

APU Students Wins Student Hackathon 2021 With Flood Mitigation Platform

Asia Pacific University (APU) has risen to its title of being a premier tech university yet again after software engineering students won first place in the Xylem REACH Student Hackathon 2021 competition, walking away with a USD4,000 cash prize for developing an interactive system that can provide relief and response to potential flooding areas.

Organised by Xylem Inc., a large American water technology provider, The REACH Student Hackathon 2021 was held from 6 – 10 October 2021. The 4-day event saw participants “hack” together software-based projects to solve global water and sustainability challenges.

Team SwiftBeacon, which consists of Software Engineering students from Diploma and Bachelor degree programmes, Yudhishthra S Sugumaran, Lee Hau Jun, Chua E Heng, and Chung Wei Qi, defeated hundreds of hackers from around the world with a one-stop software platform that bridged the gap between flood mitigation awareness and swift mitigation procedures.

apu-flood-mitigation-project-problem statement

The solution is close to us as Malaysia faces seasonal floods each year from October to March. According to a study, our flood disasters cause losses of about USD 274 million annually.

The team managed to impress the panel of judges with a 6-minute video pitch, setting themselves apart from participants from around the world, and emerged as 1st prize winner.

“The idea behind the name (SwiftBeacon) came with the fact that we wanted our product to be proactive in finding and predicting help requests – ‘beacons’ from flood-prone residents. It was an interactive website prototype that was designed using Figma,” said Yudhishthra, the leader of SwiftBeacon.

The team was mentored by Ms Abbhirami Sivarajan, a lecturer in the School of Business and advisor of the Integrated Sustainability & Urban Creativity Centre (ISUC) Student Chapter at APU.

About the Sustainability Project

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The main concern among residents in flood-prone areas was that they had insufficient time to prepare for evacuation and that help sometimes came too late. As such, the project focused on addressing these problems.

First, using augmented reality, the platform could inform at-risk residents of potential flood zones and provide a list of evacuation sites they could go to. Next, it could provide curated information blocks to residents who knew that their area was at risk of being in a flood through artificial intelligence. Finally, the interactive website also enabled response agencies to have a broad overview of all the at-risk residents and corresponding risk levels.

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To boot, the team managed to consistently align the impact of their solutions with the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, the team achieved 3 targets — 11.5 – reducing the number of people affected by water-related disasters; 13.1 – strengthening resilience to climate-related hazards and natural disasters; and 13.3 – building knowledge and capacity to meet climate change. This makes the platform a practical and implementable solution whilst addressing real-world problems.

About Team SwiftBeacon

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The team leader, Yudhishthra S Sugumaran, 19, is a student of APU’s Diploma in Information and Communication Technology (with a specialism in Software Engineering). He hails from Bangsar and is a product of Methodist Boys’ Secondary School Kuala Lumpur.

“We used Figma to create a prototype of this website, mainly to showcase the journey of our product, and we specifically focused on building features that can solve some of the problems during flood incidents,” he explained.

Yudhishthra’s 5-time hackathon experience leveraged the expertise of his teammates. Coursemates Lee Hau Jun and Chua E Heng had expertise in prototyping and research and were tasked to figure out the flaws in existing flood mitigation systems and came out with a prototype.

“I was involved with the User Interface (UI) design for three-and-a-half days and finally completed the prototyping on the fourth day. During Day 4 of the hackathon, I spent most of my time designing UI,” recalled Lee, whose hometown is in Ipoh, Perak, but went to SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong (1).

Chua, who is an alumnus of SMK Bukit Tinggi from Klang, expressed the nerve-wracking process behind coming out with the prototype given that they only had 2 days.

Chung Wei Qi, 19, a BSc (Hons) in Software Engineering student from Ipoh, Perak, completed her secondary school studies at Poi Lam High School. As she was skilful in designing, she was mainly tasked with the creation of the pitch deck for project submission.

As for Yudhishthra himself, he used his previous experiences in hackathons to guide the team to do the right research, validate the problem statements, incorporate user intent, and ensure what they designed reflected in their solution accurately.

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