University graduate wins ‘Junior Nobel’

Science graduate Harry She has topped the Computer Science category in a global competition sometimes referred to as the ‘Junior Nobel Prize’.

Science graduate Harry She

More than 3400 students from tertiary institutions around the world submitted undergraduate work to the Global Undergraduate Awards this year. The organisation is a non-profit founded in Ireland in 2008.

“It’s really exciting to win something that is truly international and to be judged against thousands of my peers from so many countries,” Harry says.

His winning computer science paper, part of his undergraduate studies, explained his work on designing a high-intensity exercise game that combines virtual reality, a heart rate monitor, and a rowing machine.

The HIITCopter ‘exergame’ combines the heart rate monitor with the kind of rowing machine typically found in a gym but introduces a digital feedback mechanism which allows users to keep their heart rate at 70% to 90% of their maximum heart rate – the optimal rate to improve cardiovascular health and overall physical fitness.

“Gyms can be a bit intimidating for a lot of people, particularly if they feel self-conscious about their weight or lack of fitness, so giving them the ability to do this type of exercise via gameplay can be really helpful,” Harry says.

“When we surveyed people on how well they liked the game, they said it was more enjoyable and they felt much more motivated than if it had just been a normal workout.”

After graduating with a bachelors degree in both science and engineering, Harry now works for New Zealand agri-tech business Halter, where, at just 25 years old, he leads the data science team. Halter develops agricultural technologies that can be used to shift cattle herds and monitor the health and wellbeing of dairy cows.

The company generates enormous amounts of data and employs machine learning techniques to analyse it. Machine learning is one application of artificial intelligence that allows a computer to ‘learn’ and interpret data from a dataset, rather than being programmed by humans.

Harry has a strong interest in cutting-edge science and technology and was the first University of Auckland engineering student to be awarded a non-member state scholarship to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). CERN is the home of the Large Hadron Collider, where the Higgs Boson, sometimes known as the ‘God Particle’, was discovered.

Dr Burkhard Weunsche from the University’s School of Computer Science says Harry displayed outstanding problem-solving skills and analytical abilities as a student.

“Throughout his research Harry impressed me with his high motivation, enthusiasm, and eagerness to discuss solution approaches.”

When Harry thinks about the future, he thinks big.

“Data science has the potential to transform the way we live, so ultimately I’d like to use my skills to help solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges, whether that is in agriculture or space exploration or by combating anthropogenic climate change.”

He will be awarded a medal and have his travel costs paid when he attends the awards ceremony in Dublin in November.