Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NYP students take on Spatial Challenge

(left to right) Happy Family team members Lim Shao Loong, Nicholas Gabriel Goh, Lim Wei Jie, Yr 3 DEI students, and their lecturer Brandon Ng (SIT)
Mention Geographical Information System (GIS) and you would probably do a double-take. While the technology is not new, it is certainly not as popular as its close cousin, the Global Positioning System (GPS). So to encourage tertiary and JC-level students to use GIS, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) has organised a Spatial Challenge.

So what is the difference between the two? Well GPS uses satellites to give one’s exact position on earth, while GIS is a technology that can capture, display and analyse geographic data. The two can also be integrated for more complex mapping purposes.

In its fourth year running, this year’s Spatial Challenge has a new category – GIS Applications – to encourage tertiary students to create new and useful GIS applications. A total of 147 university, polytechnic, and JC students from 18 teams participated in the challenge, which concluded on 27 July, 2011.

NYP sent nine teams to participate in two categories, GIS Analysis and GIS Applications (8 teams). We were given two special awards for the GIS Application category.

We caught up with the team Happy Family and their lecturer, Mr Brandon Ng to find out more about their application, the Happy Family Online Map Portal, which was given an Excellent Report Special Award by SLA. The team of 5 students from Diploma in Engineering Informatics (DEI) have won themselves $500.

The team has devised a map portal that helps young couples to access information that supports their decision making on HDB flats, amenities and facilities that support their family planning. The concept was the brainchild of Mr Ng, who felt that there should be a one-stop portal that adequately helps young couples plan for their future.

“These days, property prices keep increasing, and it is not easy for a young couple to find a location with all the specific amenities desired, such as child friendly areas, and the availability of nearby primary schools, child care, and tuition centres,” he said. “This solves problems for parents who want to get places for their children in primary schools.

Thus proposed Happy Family map portal can single out strategic housing estates based on a young couple’s priority list.

“By designing this application, the students learn how to apply coursework to real life situations in the IT industry,” Mr Ng explained.

“We spent about three months designing this application, so it was satisfying being able to deliver this,” said Lim Wei Jie, Happy Family team member, and final year DEI student.

The team did not feel disappointed about not winning the top 3 prizes as they felt the teams that won had a different target and scope. They felt it was a good learning experience, having the opportunity to learn new programming languages and a specialised skill set.

NYP’s four member iTeam also won a special award for Outstanding Data Collection, and received $500. The team designed a Singapore Park Trail Guide application that allows park users to plan a route for exercise within a park and access information such as the availability for public transport, toilets and emergency posts.

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