APU rock star duo shine at Microsoft's Code Without Barriers Hackathon 2023

  • Sangeeta Yadav, Devina Wiyani are 2 of 13 winners from 770 participants 
  • UNESCO report finds women in R&D for science in SEA stands at only 24%

Being aspiring women in tech, Sangeeta Yadav (left) and Devina Wiyani realise their full potential and empowered,and inspired to push boundaries at APU.

It is well documented that women remain underrepresented in STEM careers. According to a report by UNESCO, globally, women make up 31% of research and development positions in science, with the lowest proportions in Southwest Asia (24%) and East Asia and the Pacific (27%).

Therefore, to create an environment where women realize their full potential and feel supported, empowered, and inspired to push boundaries, the Code; Without Barriers Hackathon 2023 was organised. The 6 week long hackathon, which ran remotely from April 1 to May 15, concluded when the winners were announced on June 8, and was sponsored by Microsoft, organized by iTrain Asia Pte Ltd (Singapore), and supported by Girls in Tech. Its aim was to foster diversity and inclusion in the tech industry. 

Among the participants were two female students from Malaysia based Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) who showcased their skills by addressing different problem statements from 10 corporates. Doing APU proud Sangeeta Yadav, a Master's student in Data Science & Business Analytics, and Devina Wiyani, a final-year student studying BSc (Hons) in Computer Science with a specialisation in Data Analytics at APU, emerged as two of the 13 hackathon winners among 770 female participants from 12 countries across the Asia Pacific region.

Out of a total participants, only 72 solutions (addressing various problem statements) were submitted at the end of one and a half months. The competition, which focused on solo submissions, saw Sangeeta and Devina's solutions not only stand out but also emerge as winners for the respective problem statements tackled.

The only winner in her category, Sangeeta worked on a problem statement provided by Indian tech company HCLTech, which required her to predict whether there would be an influenza outbreak in each region by using the Twitter Dataset or the Influenza Surveillance Dataset. 

Devina, on the other hand, was tasked with solving a problem statement from Carsome which required participants to develop a pricing algorithm accurately predicting the selling price range of a car based on auction data, brand, and mileage.

[Ed note: Alicia Chong Tsui Ying, a student from Sunway University in Malaysia, working on a different problem for Carsome, was also judged category winner here.]

"Developing the time series model for influenza outbreak prediction was crucial for accurate and timely information to help public health officials, medical professionals, and individuals prepare and respond effectively to influenza outbreaks," Sangeeta said.

“By forecasting influenza outbreaks in advance, we can better allocate resources, implement preventive measures, and minimize the impact on public health," she added.

Devina shared that she had successfully developed a regression model with high accuracy, as high as 93%, and received applause from a Carsome representative for her extra steps in deploying the model itself by creating a mini-system for users to interact with it.

"This is one of the first capstone projects I have done - it is challenging to learn most things from scratch despite knowing the concept of data mining itself," she said.

Devina added that she had to refer to Kaggle and GitHub notebooks and codes and learned how other people approached their projects.

“Through this experience, I have learned and applied new knowledge, especially for Python," said Devina, who has been offered an internship at Carsome upon winning.

She further stated that the experience has boosted her confidence and motivation to keep learning and enriching her portfolio with even bigger and better projects. 

Being aspiring women in tech, both Yadav and Wiyani encourage their counterparts to give their talent a push, adding that it is never too late to begin.

"Just continue to prove ourselves regardless of identity and despite any difficulties, keep thriving," they said.

Sangeeta and Devina's outstanding performances earned them recognition and prizes such as internships, further propelling their careers in the tech industry. Their solutions can be viewed here along with all the other winners.

The success of the Code; Without Barriers 2023 hackathon highlights the immense potential and untapped talent of women in the tech industry. Participants from diverse backgrounds and communities, including AI.DA, MRANTI, STYAVA, NUS GDG, Tech Ladies Singapore, DSA Society, IEEE NTU Student Branch, Software Park Thailand, MDEC, and Girls in Tech Polytechnic, contributed to the event's vibrant and inclusive atmosphere.


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