Friday, April 19, 2013

Plugfest 2013: The Attitude Makes IT Different

(From left) Hoo Chang Sheng and Lim Min Kuan
These two friends were out to just have fun and learn new things, but Hoo Chang Sheng and Lim Min Kuan ended up winning anyway. They led their teams to the first and second places respectively in the recent inaugural Plugfest International Programming Competition 2013

Plugfest 2013 was organised by Google Developer Group and IEEE Computer Society. The competition aims to encourage the use of cloud and mobile technologies by budding software developers. 

It is heartening to know that five of our NYP teams from the School of Information Technology (SIT) took part in the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) category and that all five were shortlisted for the final round! 

I had the pleasure of meeting up with the two winners earlier this week. They shared a strong camaraderie, which left a lasting impression on me. I was also impressed by their ingenuity and creativity. Their win was certainly a feat as both teams  managed to outdo our local universities.

Chang Sheng’s team had built an app called iGoNYP to help fellow NYPians to navigate around campus, and Min Kuan’s team created an app called Paperless Parking Coupon which allows users to pay their parking charges electronically. 

All participants were required to use publically available government data to build web applications for their mobile devices.

iGoNYP, an interactive mobile application which  enables users to navigate their way around campus.
In an interview, Chang Sheng and Min Kuan, spoke about the challenges they faced during the competition and also gave their personal perspectives on life.

How did you come to participate in this competition? Was this your first competition?
Chang Sheng: My project supervisor, Ms Cally Ng, recommended that I join this competition. She encouraged me to try it out to gauge my skills in mobile development. 

Prior to this, I had participated in other similar competitions and had some experience with the requirements of the competition because we were also using publicly-available data. 

Min Kuan: This was not my first competition. Previously, my team and I emerged as second runner up during a 32-hour “hackathon” called Isobar Create. It was held at the Microsoft Office, where we had to devise applications using Near Field Communications (NFC) technologies, which allow people to connect with one another in close range.

Min Kuan and his team mates at Isobar Create
What inspired you to create IGoNYP?
Chang Sheng: We wanted to showcase NYP. The main purpose of the app was to allow users to learn more about the array of campus facilities. We wanted to give something back to NYP because the school has given so much to us. 

What were some of the problems faced along the way? 
Chang Sheng: We used the Android development framework, Eclipse, and it was tough because we created everything from scratch. We needed to develop the app from the consumer’s point of view, and that required quite a bit of lateral thinking.

Min Kuan: We had to consider the amount of battery consumption and how much space the application will take up. We also had to take into account what the consumers would want, and how to make it more effective for their use. The user experience is extremely important. 

When you embarked on this project, you knew that you’d be up against strong contenders island-wide. Did you think you had a good chance of winning? Why?
Chang Sheng: I participated in this to have fun and learn new things, not to win. In the course of this, we made friends with other teams, and had  a chance to find out what was being taught in other schools. We also got to learn new ways of presenting our ideas. 

Min Kuan: We went there to see how things would turn out. We learnt many things about our competitors, such as the teaching styles adopted by their schools. It wasn’t just about winning. The event gave us a new perspective on how we could present our ideas in a way that would allow people to understand them. 

Why do you think our teams did so well in this competition?
 Min Kuan: Good applications were produced during our Final Year Project (FYP). We also realised that NYP gave us many opportunities to develop our skills. Throughout the event, we had sound advice from our mentors as well. 

Q: What advice would you give your juniors when participating in future competitions like this?
Chang Sheng: Look at the journey, not the difficulties. You should take part in competitions to showcase your ideas and not just to win.

Min Kuan: Look at what you will learn from the journey. Participate in more competitions to learn more and improve your skills.

What are your plans for the future?
Chang ShengMin Kuan: We plan to read Computer Science in a local university. 

Using five words, describe yourself 
Chang Sheng: Passionate, innovative, helpful, conscientious and outgoing. 

Min Kuan: Matured, a leader, kind, motivated and efficient.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Chang Sheng: Read up on the latest IT news.

Are you a perfectionist?
Chang Sheng: In some areas, yes.

Min Kuan: I try to meet the personal standard I set for myself.

What’s one thing you’d like to try?
Min Kuan: Skydiving maybe? I like adventure.

Chang Sheng:  I’d like to try anything that is thrilling

What is your philosophy in life? 
Chang Sheng: I believe in the sharing my knowledge with others

Min Kuan: I believe in being open, because you benefit more when you share.

Why did you choose to study IT (Information Technology) in NYP?
Chang Sheng: I chose IT because I was interested in it, and wanted to learn more about the different IT technologies. 

Min Kuan: I studied IT in ITE. That’s where I found my interest in IT. To me, IT is not a stand- alone industry, it also plays a supportive role amongst different industries. I feel a sense of achievement knowing that what I do can benefit people. 

By Chua Khai Woon, Year 2, Diploma in Banking and Financial Services

Khai Woon is a Year 2 student pursuing a diploma in Banking and Financial Services. Watching movies and reading are among some of her hobbies. Above all, she enjoys listening to music and likes writing.  She is also a member of the NYP Symphony Orchestra. She believes  life should be unpredictable; because that is the only way it will be exciting. 

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