Cyber-savvy students bring honour to Myanmar

By Nandar Win and Win Win Maw

Technological University fifth-year students Maung Min Khant Lin and Maung Pyae Phyo Paing pose for a photo after receiving second prize in the ASEAN Makerthon 2017 tech competition. Photo: Hla Moe
Technological University fifth-year students Maung Min Khant Lin and Maung Pyae Phyo Paing pose for a photo after receiving second prize in the ASEAN Makerthon 2017 tech competition. Photo: Hla Moe

Myanmar students did their country proud by recently winning second prize at a technological competition in Malaysia.
The ASEAN Makerthon 2017 Competition was held in Cyberjaya, Selangor State, Malaysia, from September 8 to 10, in which Myanmar students competed against students from ASEAN countries, as well as China and South Korea.
Two Myanmar students won second prize in the competition held in Cyberjaya, a town which has a science park as the core that forms a key part of the Multimedia Super Corridor in Malaysia. The following is an interview with Maung Min Khant Lin and Maung Pyae Phyo Paing, fifth-year students from the University of Information Technology (UIT), who won the second prize in the competition.

Q. Tell us about the country and the competition.
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: We went to Malaysia to compete in the ASEAN Makerthon 2017. It is a competition where we have to make a product within 28 hours.

Q. What is the selection process to compete in the competition?
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: A teacher in our school told us about this competition being organised by Malaysia for ASEAN countries, as well as China and South Korea. Malaysia contacted the Myanmar Computer Federation, which then informed the technology universities about the competition. Technology universities conducted competitions in the country. There were five three-member teams and three two-member teams. Each team was first asked to make a presentation on their idea and project. The two teams that came in first and second were selected. A three-member team from the University of Computer Studies, Yangon (UCSY), and a two-member team from the UIT were selected.

Q. Explain about the competition in Malaysia.
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: Even though the name of the competition was ASEAN Makerthon 2017, China and South Korea were also invited. Among the ASEAN countries, Lao was an observer, so 11 countries participated in the competition.

Q. Which countries won the prizes?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: We were given the theme ‘Internet of Things (IOT)’ and our task was to make something that could be used with the internet. Of the three title options, ‘Agriculture’, ‘Health Care’ and ‘Smart City’, we chose Smart City. Smart City is widely used internationally, but is not used here much. In huge housing complexes or condominium, each car is provided an ID, which helps the system to record their entry and exit time without requiring anyone to write them down manually. This is the idea of a Smart City. Our project Smart Home does not require anyone to open or close the windows.
Using the Smart Home System Control, homeowners can be anywhere in the world with internet access and send messages via phone to open and close windows, lights, doors, sunshades and even control the air conditioning.
If the temperature exceeds the fire-safety level, the owner will get an alert message on the phone. Such functions were included in our project.
The first prize was won by China. While shopping online, people cannot determine whether a vegetable is fresh or not. To overcome this, they put sensors on the cold storage box to determine the temperature of vegetables and calculate how long they would remain fresh. The order and delivery time are also calculated, and this information is then posted on the internet page. They (China) competed with this system. Myanmar came in second and host Malaysia was third.
They (Chinese team) use drones to take images of trees, buds and flowers. Thus, they know the number of buds on a tree and the colour changes that occur during the day. They use image processing to collect such information. If the number of buds is low, they provide water and fertilisers. No one needs to go around the field, and only one person is needed to sit and watch the whole farm using a drone.

University of Information Tecehnology student Maung Pyae Phyo Paing competes at ASEAN Markethon 2017. Photo: Hla Moe
University of Information Tecehnology student Maung Pyae Phyo Paing competes at ASEAN Markethon 2017. Photo: Hla Moe

Q. What sort of preparations were made before the competition?
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: Before we entered this competition, we participated in our school competition. It was a UIT Open Campus competition. We entered that competition with a project, and thus, we had prior experience. We entered this competition based on that experience.

Q. What sort of material preparation was made for the competition?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: We were asked to bring along the materials we needed. Designs and ideas could be thought of in advance. We used the same project that we used in the Open Campus competition. We modified the circuits used in this competition. We were provided with some of the materials that we needed, but we also took along the things that we needed. We built a small model house.

Q. What were the difficulties?
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: The requirement was to complete something within 28 hours. Although we could carry the materials we required, we could not set it up and take it along. Thus, we could not build our model house and take it along. The things we were provided with did not meet our requirements. So, we were unable to include some things in our project. That is why we needed to think ahead. Some things were damaged and so, we needed to have the means to replace them. Sometimes, the machines we used were not compatible with the things provided there. These were the difficulties we faced.

Q. What are the benefits for you, your school, your surrounding and your country from this competition?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: The main benefit was in being able to learn about the
sort of technology that the
competing ASEAN level competitors had brought to the competition.
We were able to learn about their technological level and compare our level with them. We realised how developed they were. Students from China are at the professional level in technology. Some of the devices they used were never seen before in our country.
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: Firstly, I personally benefited from the competition. We were able to go abroad. We were able to learn what others can do and how other countries do things. We were able to assess our technology level. We were also able to observe other countries’ technology, and thus, we gained many valuable
experiences.

Q. What are your future plans?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: After competing and winning a prize in this competition, I have more confidence in myself. It gave me the strength to go on. There will be similar competitions every year.
As all schools are encouraging students to compete in such technological competitions, it will give us an opportunity to develop.
As the State is awarding additional awards for prize-winning students, it will give us strength to try more.
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: We participated in this competition, which is our first, so we faced some difficulties. However, we participated to gain experience. Having participated in similar competitions in our country helped us a lot.

Technological University student designs his project at the Markerthon 2017 competition. Photo: Hla Moe
Technological University student designs his project at the Markerthon 2017 competition. Photo: Hla Moe

Q. What is the most important issue for Myanmar people to know about international technology competitions?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: In the past, people didn’t know anything about computers and technology. Through this sort of competition and exhibition, the youths can learn about technology. Earlier, we used what was invented in other countries. Only when we have the technology to invent our own things can our nation develop. Youths need to be able to invent their own things and use them instead of using what others have invented.
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: We need to fill our knowledge first in order to compete internationally. That is, to compete in competitions held in our country and gain experience. Next, English and presentation skills are also required. These need to be studied. If not, we won’t be able to explain our inventions and people won’t understand or know about it.
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: In these competitions, only three minutes of presentation time is given. The presentation needs to be completed in three minutes. The three-member team from China which won the first prize had a girl who seemed to come prepared for the sole purpose of making a presentation. Her English was very good. Two boys in the team drew the design and set up the circuits. They worked together very effectively. One on design, another on circuits and a third on presentation. Their setup was complete.

Q. What are your suggestions to youngsters who’ll compete in next year competition?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: Two of us are skilled in circuits. Instead of this setup, we would like to urge to form a team consisting of a skilled circuit person, a skilled designer and a skilled presenter. Then it will be perfect.
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: Making a team from skilled person in their respective field would be more convenient. Materials required for the project also need to be thought out and prepared in advance. As we are going to a foreign country, we wouldn’t know where to get something that we need. For example, one of our sensors was damaged. But the sensors they have didn’t meet our requirements. Luckily, we brought along a spare. If not, we will not know the temperature. The main thing is to bring an extra of all the things you need.

Q. What more would you like to say to the next generation of youth?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: Put in more effort. Only then will the country develop. In choosing universities nowadays, people tend to choose with an eye toward job opportunity. Our major is in circuits and our country isn’t developed much in this sector. Most students think that it may not be convenient to choose this major as they are afraid that they may not get a job. I would like to say that if you are good, the job will come to you.
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: No one is born smart or learned. Many will think we were outstanding, but I don’t think of myself such way. I still have a lot to study and do. Technology doesn’t stand still. It is always moving and we need to catch up to it. The main thing is to put in more effort. Do the best you can in what you have interest. Nowadays, it is quite easy to study. Anything can be found via the internet. At the age when you can find whatever you want, I just want to say to put in more effort.

Q. How did you feel when you heard the announcement on winning a prize? Is there anything memorable that you experienced in the competition?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: Before the main prizes were announced, smaller prizes were announced in order to make everyone happy. Myanmar was not included. My heart was beating wildly by then. For the main prizes, third prize being won by Malaysia was announced first. I became more excited. Before announcing the second prize, they hinted on the prize being awarded to a project with a model house. It was then that I realised we may have won the second prize, and my expectations were raised. I could not describe my joy when it was actually announced. Because our country is lagging behind and not developed in technology, we were not expecting much, even though we put in our best effort. We were afraid that we may not be able to match other countries. But we did our best and won the second prize, so I was so happy.

Maung Min Khant Lin works on his project during the ASEAN Makerthon 2017 tech competition in Malaysia.  Photo: Hla Moe
Maung Min Khant Lin works on his project during the ASEAN Makerthon 2017 tech competition in Malaysia.  Photo: Hla Moe

Q. Is there anything that you want to say about the competition? Anyone that you would like to thank?
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: This is the first time our country has participated in this sort of competition, and we won a prize. I’m proud to show that we are at a certain level among the ASEAN countries and are able to compete with them. Compete again in the future so that we can be proud again. I would like the State (country) and schools to provide support to compete.
A. Maung Pyae Phyo Paing: It is costly to complete a project like this. If a team has six members, each needs to put up Ks10,000 in order to buy the necessary materials. But for a major competition like this, we need to use good materials and this increases the cost. If the State (country) and schools support in such thing, it would be convenient. The funds to buy materials for this competition was supported by the Myanmar Computer Federation.
If the support is provided by the State, we could do more. In our student days, we heard frequently about some schools not allowing students into the lab. The equipment is expensive, so permission was not granted to use it. It should not be like this. We won’t learn without using it. K Lab provided the lab in our school and we were permitted to use the lab. They didn’t say anything if something is damaged. Through experiment and use, we gained experience and skills. This experience and skill was useful for us when we went abroad to compete.
A. Maung Min Khant Lin: We should compete more in Open Campus type of competitions. I thank my teacher Daw Khin Htar Nwe for pressing us to do projects. Because of this, we were able to compete and gain experience. I would also like to thank our Professor Daw Saw Sandar Aye for bringing in foreign experts to conduct seminars and arrange competitions. Thanks to our friends who help us. K Lab provided all the things we need for the project from start to finish, so many thanks to K Lab too.

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