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Wednesday, 3 October 2018

How These Students Became ASEAN’S Problem Solvers through Data Science

Winning a competition in a field you knew nothing about may seem like a far-flung outcome. This champion of ASEAN Data Science Explorers (ADSE) National Finals in Thailand broke that notion and proved otherwise.

Two classmates enrolled in International Business Management course, Amarin Udomphol and Theerapong Srisuphan, had no experience of using a data analytics software to solve a problem beforehand. Yet after coming across the ADSE competition, they joined forces and created a team of two, encouraged by the provision of data analytics online courses before the competition begins.

With courage and keenness to learn, Amarin and Theerapong steadily began to pick up skills in data science and carefully followed every webinar session from SAP. When asked why the team chose the issue of ASEAN youths’ mental health as their research topic, they explained, “being previously final-year high school students who must prepare for university entrance, we experienced firsthand the immense exposure to stress that youths in Thailand deal with, as well as the lack of support from the adults in overcoming this growing problem.”

Prompted by the heartbreaking reality of the increasing rate of youth’s suicide attempt, Amarin and Theerapong were determined to raise awareness of this alarming issue.

So was it a smooth ride for UTCC ASEAN Rangers team from the beginning of the competition to where they are now? Certainly not. Coordination between the two was admittedly difficult, with semester break and great distance between their homes hindering the effectiveness of their teamwork, compelling them to turn to social network platform as an alternative means of communication. What’s more, in the process of researching they found that existing data of ASEAN youths’ mental health was scarce, whereas presenting key findings in a way that’s convincing and easy to digest for the audience posed another set of obstacles in their route to National Finals.

In the face of these challenges, both agreed that not giving up was the main ingredient in their recipe of reaching this far in the competition. “If you want to do something, just do it, because you can always start from zero and you will learn along the way,” said the team leader, Amarin. Both also shared how the benefit of data analytics skills they acquired from ADSE extends to their area of interest and their schoolwork. “We can definitely apply data science to the business world, in our school subjects like Marketing and Accounting,” answered Theerapong.

“...not giving up was the main ingredient in their recipe of reaching this far in the competition.”

On achieving the first rank in National Finals and moving forward to ASEANDSE Regional Finals, Amarin expressed his view, “we didn’t expect to win and we never focused on the prize. We only focused on doing our best. We wanted to help other people through this, we have shared our solutions and we already learnt so much from this competition, we considered it as the reward itself.

These two students from University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce were also eager to inspire other ASEAN youths, “There are so many different problems in ASEAN and you can contribute to solve these problems. If you want to get exposed to a vast amount of knowledge, share your ideas, meet new friends from various institutions and be a part of ASEAN’s problem solvers, join this competition,” urged Theerapong. “ASEANDSE is a really interesting competition because it’s not just about competing, it’s about learning and expanding your personal capacity. Here, we were able to look at an issue from many different perspectives thanks to the other contestants, and we even had the privilege of meeting representatives from Foreign Ministry and United Nations.”

“ASEANDSE is a really interesting competition because it’s not just about competing, it’s about learning and expanding your personal capacity.”

Now one final challenge in ASEAN Data Science Explorers 2018 awaits this team, who are counting days until the Regional Finals, where they will face other winners from the rest of ASEAN countries. But with their eyes firmly fixed on the process of learning and helping to answer some of ASEAN’s most pressing questions, it’s easy to see that both Amarin and Theerapong will do just fine in conquering whatever stumbling blocks arising in their journey.

Article by Evelyn Lo, a Marketing student at SIM GE - University of Southampton and a Communication Intern at the ASEAN Foundation.

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