Diving into Big Data
18 Sep 2017

For their innovative project in data analytics, a team from Singapore Polytechnic emerged as champions in the National Science Experiment (NSE) Big Data Challenge 2017 (Post-secondary category).

The competition was held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on 13 September 2017, and was graced by Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. Alex’s team was one of the 11 finalists out of 92 teams which participated in the challenge.

Held since 2015, the NSE Big Data Challenge sought to help participants understand big data and explore how it can be used to manage real-world issues. This year, students collected and analysed data for a research topic on the theme of sustainable urban living. To conduct this experiment, the students were required to use a sensor device called SENSg, provided by SUTD. This wearable device can measure and store data including its wearers’ motion as well as environmental metrics such as temperature, humidity, noise and light.

Under the mentorship of DSTA’s Senior Engineer (C4ID) Alex Sharma, they used the SENSg devices to collect more than a million data points on students’ location and speed, along with the time at which these data points were collected. The data collected was then used to validate their hypothesis that students stayed back late on campus because they lived far away. They discovered that the further students stay from school, the later they depart from school (i.e. they stayed back till late on campus).

Diving into Big Data

The team, which beat five others in its category, said that Alex had played an instrumental role in their win. “Even with his busy schedule, Alex still made time after work to meet up with us regularly and ensured that we were on the right track for our project,” team leader Rachel Yap said.

Another team member, Ng Shei Er, also said that Alex’s expertise in data analytics had helped to widen their horizons on the types of analysis that could be achieved from raw data. Alex said: “In my course of work, I understood the possibilities of open source data and this helped me to seed some of these ideas to the team. I worked with them in shaping their problem statement and formulating hypotheses on a more strategic level, going beyond data collection and experimentation.”

For Alex, the most rewarding part of the three-month mentoring experience was being able to see an idea through to its fruition from a student-led initiative. “I am very proud of my team’s win and hope that this experience will fuel their interest in pursuing data analytics at a deeper level,” he said.