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Faculty of ICT, Mahidol University
 

An Interview with IEEE Contest Winner

 

“Three of us alone might not have got the award without help from others.”

On February 11, 2011, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, an international organization dedicated to advancing technological innovation related to electricity, organized the IEEE Senior Project Contest 2011 for the first time at Thammasat University. It is widely known that one MUICT team consisting of three seniors won the Best Computer Science Innovation in the contest. Their work “My OCR” attracted a number of visitors’ attention. You might want to know what “My OCR” is, and what three of them encountered before winning the award. So, let’s enjoy their story.

ICT Spider: Hello. Could you please introduce yourself?

Bom: Hi! My name is Thanyathorn Patanaanunwong. You can call me Bom. Now, I’m studying in the fourth year of the Faculty of ICT in the multimedia track.
New: Hi! My name is Ms. Kanyarat Senapitak. My nickname is New. I am currently a fourth year student. My track is also the multimedia.
Aom: Hi there! I’m Manatsawee Phunsin. You can call me Aom. I am a fourth year student in the database track, the Faculty of ICT.

 

ICT Spider: What inspired you three to come up with My OCR project?

Bom: It’s our personal interest. We’d never thought of competing in any competition before. And we presented our ideas about OCR system to Assistant Professor Dr. Sukanya since she is teaching about the topic. She wanted us to get experience by learning from others’ works. So she encouraged us to compete in the contest.

 

ICT Spider: What did “My OCR” originate from?

Bom: It came from an idea that, during any seminars or classes, we had to waste our time jotting down what the lecturers were saying about while looking at them. So we thought that it would be better if what we are watching could be converted to MS Word files. Our work is a prototype. It will make quality photos in case the areas in which photos are taken have a suitable amount of light. Also, you have to set the camera phone straight while taking photos.

 

 ICT Spider: What do you think made “My OCR” win the first prize in IEEE Senior Project Contest 2011?

Aom: We actually did not expect the prize. But on being announced to be the first winner, we were very surprised and happy. We have known that IEEE Contest focuses on the academic research. Our group featured not only our academic presentation, but also our work’s practical use. Along the way, lecturer Sukanya gave us good advice about developing the project. That’s why we won the victory.
New: We must give credit to many teachers, especially lecturer Sukanya. She helped us to see what we should focus on. She, for example, checked our poster for suitability and correctness

 

ICT Spider: You all had to study and do the project at the same time. How did you three allot time to this task?

New: We took about one semester. We spent the first two months studying others’ research and finding what we could use for our work. Then we took around three to four months for the development process.

 

ICT Spider: What problems did you encounter during the process and how did you solve them?

New: We got a lot of problems. At first, we discussed them together. If we couldn’t reach the consensus about the solutions, we would consult lecturer Sukanya. For example, we found the results did not meet the hypothesis on which we were based. The reason was that what we’ve got was different from what we’ve seen in the research we studied about. We solved the problem despite the fact that we did not know whether what we thought was right or not. When we could not solve any problem, we would contact lecturer Sukanya, asking for her help.

 

ICT Spider: How did lecturer Sukanya suggest her ideas, helping you solve the problem?

New: She had us think and discuss the problems together and then she said, “Yeah! That’s the point!”
Aom: Lecturer Sukanya clarified the problems we were stuck with. Then she instructed how to solve them one after another. If it did not work, just try other ways out.

 

ICT Spider: What was the most difficult thing to do? And how did you pass it through?

Aom: The hardest thing was the application of the methods. With the method, we cannot achieve the results meeting the hypothesis in all cases. We tested it on all cases then chose one applicable to our project. Then, we had to adapt the case to our work step-by-step. This was the most difficult thing to me.
New: We learned about other fields of computer science in order to develop our project, making us realize that only what we’ve got was not enough. In the beginning, we viewed the program as just converting photos into words, but we later knew that it is involved with a number of steps. Actually, it takes around 40 and 50 years for the development of the OCR system you are using nowadays.

 

ICT Spider: Was there any moment you felt hopeless or tired?

New: Of course. But thanks to encouragement from our group members ourselves, our friends, and most importantly, our families, we soon got better.

 

ICT Spider: How about the development of “My OCR” in the future?

Aom: We want to develop it to a greater level, but our problem is time. Some of us are applying for a job. It is quite hard for us to have a reunion for the project. We will be very pleased if our juniors and underclassmen want to continue our project.
Bom: Now, we have been preparing documents for those who want to continue our work.

 

ICT Spider: Do you have any projects else you want to do, other than “My OCR”?

Bom: Yeah, things like Internet Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, and Writing Mobile Applications for iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, etc. And, for the future, if we can develop an idea to a certain thing, we will probably compete in a competition.

 

ICT Spider: What is your ideal job?

Bom: I love to work with the military technology. It is not like carrying guns or going to the wars, but it is about designing and developing the information system for the military forces.
Aom: I prefer working in the governmental organizations, like the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.
New: I’ve got a job already. I will start working as a Cobol Programmer at the beginning of the next month. I will do my best for it!

 

ICT Spider: Based on the experience of carrying “My OCR” out, what have you been impressed with?

Aom: First of all, we have been impressed with our advisor: lecturer Sukanya. We, at first, were despondent as she is outspoken. She would keep stimulating us to improve ourselves. She said, “You can do better. This is not good enough!” When we got the prize, we were very proud and immediately realized the reason why lecturer Sukanya said like that. It made us recognize our unsophisticated views. We were sometimes working without preparations. But lecturer Sukanya had us practice critical thinking and systematic working.
Bom: คLecturer Sukanya helped us anticipate some possible questions the judges might ask us. After the competition, she called me up while we were on the way to the university. She said, “We are happy for you.” She repeated this sentence. We felt we were about to cry (laughing).
New: As the representative of our group, I would like to give thanks to lecturer Sukanya, staff, and the Faculty of ICT for supports, advice as well as encouragement.

 

ICT Spider: What would you like to say to your juniors and underclassmen?

Bom: Sometimes, to invent a work under a certain topic, you may have to research the topic in others’ works in order that your development will benefit your work most.
New: Doing a senior project is a demanding task, but it helps widen your vision. You may have to spend much time and energy finishing it. Endure and try to consult your lecturer. His / her advice is precious to you, undoubtedly.

Undeniably, achieving a prize is not a piece of cake. Consequently, we, the Faculty of ICT, have been deeply proud of Assistant Professor Dr. Sukanya, Mr. Thanyathorn, Ms. Kanyarat, and Ms. Manatsawee for their great job. If one is interested to learn more about “My OCR”, please contact the faculty of ICT.

 

 

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