SMU’s Computing and Information Systems Team emerged champions at DSTA hackathon

By the SMU Corporate Communications team

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and regions have imposed quarantines, entry bans, or other restrictions for citizens of or recent travellers to the most affected areas. Some have also discouraged their own citizens from travelling overseas.

News reports have shown that people's demand and desire for travel remain very strong. When the travel bans are eased or lifted, many people are expected to resume traveling. But until that happens, what can one do to satisfy his wanderlust in the meantime?

Say ‘Hi’ to HelloWorld, an app developed by Team Techtris, comprising five Year-2 students from the School of Computing and Information Systems (SCIS) – Christopher Lim Sheng Yong, Bryan Lee Min Yuan, Ko Hui Ning, Justina Ann Wong Juan-wen, and Shawn Pang Huan Shan. It allows users to explore and learn more about the different landmarks in a country, as well as curate a collection of such landmarks in 3D using Augmented Reality (AR).

As the app is still a prototype, the team focused on landmarks in Singapore, and developed it with tourists who want to visit Singapore and locals who want to explore and rediscover Singapore in mind.

The innovative solution won the team the first prize and a cash prize of $2,000 at the CODE_EXP Hackathon organised by the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) from 14-18 June 2021.

Held entirely online, participants of the competition were challenged to come up with possible ways to better aid people in adjusting and adapting to new norms in the post-pandemic world. The solutions proposed, in areas such as healthcare and travel and tourism, are to benefit the general public or vulnerable groups including the elderly. 

About 160 teams competed in the Polytechnic/University category, of which eight were selected for the finals where they were judged on the feasibility and scalability of their solutions, and the quality of their presentations.

Christopher Lim said, “This app was developed due to our common love for travel. As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, travelling overseas has been a distant memory for most of us. We wanted to create an app so that users can explore new overseas landmarks as well as re-discover and reminisce familiar favourites in their home countries.”

The app has two features - ‘Discover’ and ‘My World’. 

Feature 1: ‘Discover’

This is a catalogue of landmarks that users can explore and learn more about, such as their history and significance.

Select a famous landmark from the map view to read about its history and origins.

Discover > Click on ‘The Merlion’ > Click on ‘Add’

From this catalogue, users can choose to add their favourite landmarks to ‘My World’ which is the AR component of the app.

‘Feature 2’: My World

Discover the landmark in 3D via AR and curate your own collection of AR landmarks.

Sharing their reason for taking part in the hackathon and the experience gained, Christopher added, “We began as a group of friends who share a common love for playing Tetris, hence we named our team Techtris. Although all five of us have full-time summer internships, we thought it would be a fun learning experience to sign up together for the CODE_EXP Hackathon. We wanted to make something that is best experienced on the mobile phone, and hence came up with the idea of using AR.

“One big challenge we encountered was the 72-hour time limit because we could only start work on our solution in the evening after finishing our internship for the day. To meet tight deadlines, we became interns by day and hackers by night. On the night before submission deadline, we had an intense night of hacking and managed to submit our solution on time to catch the sunrise together. Although it was exhausting, the experience was also a precious opportunity for us to explore the potential of software in shaping lives in the post-pandemic world.”