Doing SMU Proud at the 2021 Early Career and Student Statisticians’ Conference Video Competition

SMU undergraduate Shawn Lew Wei Hwa has done the University proud by winning the video competition at the Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference 2021 (ECSSC) on 26 July 2021. Shawn, currently in his second year with SMU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Business, clinched the prize for his presentation of “Project Guide.Me”, an analysis of how well the visually impaired have been able to integrate into Singaporean society.

ECSSC, previously known as the Young Statisticians Conference, is a forum designed to connect student statisticians and those in the early stages of their careers. This year, with the ongoing pandemic, it took place entirely virtually for the first time. In addition to organising talks on a wide range of topics covering innovative statistical research, solutions developed for industry, and tips for navigating the rigours of study and life on the job, ECSSC featured a competition for young talent to showcase their statistical mettle and enthusiasm. Participants worldwide submitted their entries and presented their work in a virtual setting.

Putting together the entry for the Competition was far from a walk in the park. Ms. Rosie Ching, Senior Lecturer of Statistics from SMU School of Economics and Shawn’s statistics lecturer in Project Guide.Me, gave a strong arm of encouragement that helped keep Shawn on track during the process. The duo bounced numbers, statistics, words and ideas off each other through a shared platform, ensuring the project’s original, nationwide statistics and interpretations were sharp and pinpointed on helping the blind with mobility challenges in Singapore.

“The preparation phase included scripting, refining and finally filming. It started with recalling our Statistics-X Project, “Guide.Me”, from my group’s 100+ page submission,” said Shawn. “Thereafter it was about condensing 14 weeks’ worth of knowledge and project data into less than 3 minutes, which would have been impossible without Ms Ching’s guidance and patience! Finally, after multiple rounds of refining, it was lights and cameras in the small garden leading to Fort Canning right outside Kwa Geok Choo Library, where my friend Nicole, also Ms. Ching’s student, filmed. A huge thank you to both Ms. Ching and Nicole for this!”

Shawn impressed judges with his ability to tell the whole Guide.Me story in technical statistical language, from Marasculio’s to the Tukey-Kramer Procedure, succinctly and eloquently in less than 3 minutes, mastering the fine balance between name-dropping and explaining everything with masterful strokes that allowed viewers to relate to the message.

Commenting on his win at the global competition, Shawn said: “It was a pleasant surprise when I first heard the news, which then turned into relief when I realised all our efforts were put to good use. Considering that I didn’t come from a strong background in Statistics, I’m so grateful for Ms Ching’s constant help and support throughout. She spent so much time running through the script and refreshing the content with me so I could explain it better - I really owe this one to her!”

Statistics, otherwise known as the science of collecting, organising, analysing, and interpreting data, may at times appear overwhelming. But Shawn who sees himself pursuing a future career in the communications industry or technology sales, believes that his participation in the competition honed valuable skills beyond textbook principles.

“One thing I learnt in my classes is that statistics is everywhere - really! From casinos to politics to weird news about double-yolked eggs, statistics is omnipresent,” he shared. “I now can explain the Marasculio Procedure in 20 words without breaking a sweat!”

Ms. Ching was overjoyed for Shawn. She said, “Shawn is a fully-deserving winner. I take my hat off to him for his natural talents, incredible industry and most memorably of all, his winsome cheer and generous heart shared with me throughout this whole year since we met in early January. We wouldn’t be here either without the valuable filming and editing skills of another great student of mine, Nicole Woo Hwee Wen.”

“With his dedication and exuberance, Shawn has invested both hard and heart work, taking the bull by the horns in this competition. He has conquered the formidable art of communicating wagon-loads of hefty statistics from our Project Guide.Me, and has done it so naturally and effectively to raise awareness for the challenges of the visually-impaired in Singapore, which is our common mission. I am absolutely thrilled to pieces for Shawn, and feel like the coach of an Olympic gold-medal winner!”

Shawn shared his advice for fellow students who might be keen to take part in similar competitions: “Take a leap of faith and go for it! You have so much support from your peers and instructors alike, and all you need to do is ask.”


With Shawn’s permission, here is a reproduction of his winning video competition submission:

Project Guide.Me is our 2021 statistics project, to open our eyes to the multitude of stigma and mobility challenges that our fellow visually-impaired Singaporeans face in their everyday lives.

We, 95 Singapore Management University Students and Senior Lecturer of Statistics Ms Rosie Ching, interviewed 3,733 people islandwide, including the blind, fulfilling population demographics in our multi-cultural, multi-racial country. An intense five weeks of nationwide surveying and four weeks of intense statistical analysis later, our work has gained attention for the blind, with national newspapers publishing our results.

Championed by our Patron, a local Mayor, we worked alongside Guide Dogs Singapore to push for change. We ultimately hope for fuller acceptance of the blind through our transport system and demolishing stigma towards them and their guide dogs. 

View Shawn’s entry for the ECSSC2021 Video Competition at: