APU Team Wins AWS Special Award Over Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI)

APU students won the AWS Special Award, defeating 101 teams at the HB Get Your Hack On competition. Read more here

Updated 03 Mar 2022

APU Team Wins AWS Special Award Over Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) - Feature-Image

As the work industry grows, employers are determined to get the creme de la creme of talents in their organisations. As such, innovative competitions are organised to attract top tech talents. These competitions provide opportunities for talents to gain substantial experience, showcase skills and discover personal aptitude.

Following this, Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) final year undergraduate students in Computer Science specialising in Data Analytics studies made a mark at the RHB Get Your Hack On: Data Edition 2022, which was held from 21 - 23 and 29 January.


The winning team, Team Outlier, which was made up of 3 students — Heng Yi Sheng, Chiah Yi Her and Hooi Jun Ming — made the finals alongside 12 other shortlisted finalists out of 101 teams. They are model students of how an extended competition organised beyond the campus could offer a lot more reward than just winning a prize.

Team leader, Heng Yi Sheng, explained how they’ve been looking for data-related challenges to showcase their skills and test their capabilities and knowledge. The trio decided to give the competition a try after coming across it through social media.

“We have always wanted to participate in hackathon challenges to showcase the technical skills and knowledge we have learned in class. Besides, we wanted to get out of our comfort zone and grow as young professionals by pitching our ideas to the industries,” added Heng.


The open competition sees Team Outlier competing with working professionals to create functional algorithms, meaningful insights or exciting applications using datasets provided by the organiser to solve different problems.

Participating on their own accord without any mentorship, the winning team amazed their lecturers with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Special Award using only their strong knowledge of data mining, machine learning and deep learning from their 3-year studies.

Heng confessed that the competition was not an easy feat especially since it was done on a virtual platform. A lot of research was done on the company background and banking products before brainstorming ideas. Despite that, the team presented their solution through a code editor and made it into the final round. The team were given an additional 5 days to enhance their project by transferring it into a web application.

“The preliminary round was a 3-day non-stop process, as we needed to prepare for the live demo of our solution that gives better customer experience in digital banking. Our team had to burn the midnight oil,” recalled Heng.

Heng credited the incorporation of Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) as their winning factor. The software enabled them to explain features that contributed to the prediction. In essence, the team learned more throughout the process from observing other teams’ solutions and their creative ideas in tackling the competition.

Greatly influenced by the “strive for excellence” ethos at APU, Team Outlier is grateful that this exposure had boosted their confidence and allowed the team to connect with new people. Besides, the trio also expressed their appreciation to dedicated lecturers who had shaped them.

In addition, Heng took the opportunity to express his gratitude to Dr. Preethi Subramanian for introducing them to the Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI).

“She was my Final Year Project supervisor who is extremely knowledgeable and experienced in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) discipline. Her dedication, involvement, and encouragement have allowed me to conduct profound research in the field of ML and AI,” he said.

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    Nina Fazil

    Nina Fazil

    A work in progress — has been for the past 24 years.