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SMU MITB TEAM CLINCHES AWARD AT VAST CHALLENGE 2018

4 Dec 2018



Team JAKAY from the Master of IT in Business (MITB) programme continued its award-winning streak at the IEEE Visual Analytics Science and Technology Challenge (VAST Challenge) 2018. Comprising Jason Ong, Akangsha Bandalkul, Kishan Shridhar, Angad Srivastava and Zhang Yanrong, Team JAKAY bagged an award for “Honorable Mention: Clarity of Narrative” for Mini-Challenge 2 this year.

The Visual Analytics Science and Technology Challenge (VAST Challenge) is an annual contest with the goal of advancing the field of visual analytics through competition. Building on from last year’s challenge, the 2018 edition presented three new mini-challenges for participants to apply their visual analytics research and technologies to help solve a mystery in a wildlife preserve. Participants were given a scenario where a furniture manufacturing company was implicated in environmental damage to the wildlife preserve for both dumping toxic waste and polluting the air with chemicals from its manufacturing process. The company then provided supporting data in an attempt to combat these conclusions, and the challenge for participants was to analyse and determine if the insights gathered from the supplied data is sufficient to validate the company’s claims. In addition, participants were required to recommend a new sampling strategy for the Hydrology department, to better understand the waterway situation in the wildlife preserve.

Team JAKAY wowed the judges with a detailed and engaging submission made for the Mini-Challenge 2. The Mini-Challenge 2 provided a dataset that had sensor readings of chemical and physical properties of water bodies in the wildlife preserve. With this, Team JAKAY developed visualisations that helped to discover the chemicals, showing significant trends and anomalies. A novel visualisation that Team JAKAY had developed, known as the “Sunburst Diagram for Sequential Sampling”, received positive acclaim from the reviewers.

“This challenge has allowed us to tell a story through interactive visualisations from data insights, i.e. not just displaying the analytical results, but also creating an interactive user story of the analysis conducted. We designed a dashboard so that users can derive their own conclusions based on our findings,” Angad commented.

The judging criteria to select winners was dependent on the collective review by the judges on the submission. The panel comprises of chief scientists, researchers and professors of visual analytics from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the US Air Force Research Laboratory.

“Competing with people of high regard in the data visualisation community for two consecutive years has been enriching. Putting SMU on the world map feels proud, especially when conference participants walk up to you and feel pleasantly surprised that a “Management University” continues to compete and win at visual analytics conferences,” said Kishan.

Team JAKAY attributed its success to the invaluable guidance of professors at SMU. Jason said that his MITB curriculum helped greatly: “Visual analytics by Prof. Kam piqued our interest in this subject and introduced us to VAST challenge to put what we have learnt into practice.”

For Akangsha, it was a learning experience. “This competition was a great way to apply what we learned in class to different scenarios through each of the different mini challenges. This forced us to think out of the box and use our understanding of best practices in visualisation and data analytics to come up with exciting visualisations which could tell the story.”

“Our journey in the visual analytics field and our connection with VAST challenge initiated from MITB’s ISSS608 Visual Analytics course guided by Prof. Kam. Luckily, I had such a good chance to step into this field and work with awesome teammates. I believe we will keep it on!" Yanrong added.


Team JAKAY (L-R): Akangsha Bandalkul, Kishan Shridhar, Angad Srivastava, Jason Ong, Zhang Yanrong.

Last updated on 05 Dec 2018 .