Game On for BrainHack 2020
05 Jun 2020

The second edition of DSTA’s annual BrainHack kicked off from 1 to 5 June 2020 with more technologies to explore and a new virtual format.

Through a range of interactive online workshops and a hackathon, students were challenged to see through fake news and develop mobile apps. BrainHack’s unique experiential learning concept was brought to life even amid COVID-19, and welcomed participants from various junior colleges (JC), Integrated Programme (IP) schools (Year 5 and 6), Institutes of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnics and universities.


See through fake news with SeeTrue workshops

While the issue of disinformation is not new, it has become more prevalent of late as techniques in generating and spreading fake news have evolved to become more sophisticated. During the SeeTrue workshops, students learnt how to differentiate between real and fake content, and marvelled at how technology can be used to create and debunk fakes.

An online workshop on 1 June 2020 conducted by engineers from DSTA’s Information Programme Centre (PC) gave an overview of fake news and disinformation, as well as ways to identify and counter fake news through technologies such as machine learning. A guest speaker from the National Library Board also spoke about information literacy and simple ways to fact-check information using online tools.

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Learning about fake news technologies via live streaming.

Participants took part in interactive quizzes, polls, and Q&As.

Another series of workshops offered a closer look into the mechanics of fake news detection, including opportunities for hands-on coding. After learning some basic machine learning techniques, students were guided on how to create a fake image detector. The fake image detectors were then put to the test to determine which model had the highest accuracy.

Guided by DSTA mentors, participants learnt to create fake image detectors using machine learning techniques.

“It was quite exciting to have the opportunity to train my own machine learning algorithm, and definitely sparked an interest in the field,” said Nicole Tan, a Singapore Management University Information Systems student.

CODE_EXP mobile app development hackathon

Another group of students created their own cloud-based mobile apps via the CODE_EXP Hackathon. Prior to the event, participants had learnt about basic app development online, and received recommendations on suitable programmes and tech stacks to use. They were also able to experiment with cloud-based development tools on Amazon Web Services.

Close to 70 teams took part in the hackathon to address the problem statement: “How can we further improve our resilience in times of health crisis? This includes tackling potential threats or challenges that may arise during or after a health crisis.”

Inspired by what they saw around them, teams came up with mobile solutions under the guidance of mentors from DSTA’s Enterprise IT PC.

“I remember sending our mentors so many images of our code and errors. They went through each and every one of them to give us feedback and help us solve them, explaining why things worked in a certain way. I’m very grateful for them!” said K. Srivarshni from Victoria Junior College.

Eight finalist teams from each category – JC/IP/ITE and Uni/Poly – were eventually selected for a real-time pitching session during the finals on 5 June 2020. Besides presenting to a panel of judges from Enterprise IT PC, the 16 representatives also answered fellow participants’ questions via a live audience chat.

Of the many innovative solutions, several apps stood out for their effectiveness in addressing real-world issues, originality, app functionality, and scalability. These included apps that aimed to monitor crowds or queues and forge community spirit virtually, among other creative ideas.

Several of the finalists presenting how they turned their creative ideas into functioning apps.

“Our favourite part was definitely when our app actually worked well after three days and nights of development and testing – we could download it into our phones and use it! Working on our own laptops at home really tested our collaboration and team spirit,” Lim Huai Xing from National University of Singapore said.

The BrainHack learning experience continues – participants will enter an immersive virtual game world from 3 to 5 July 2020 with more online workshops, team competitions, panel discussions and an interactive Technology Showcase.