UNIVERSITY of San Carlos (USC) graduates bagged the top prize of an innovation competition held in Manila last June 29, 2019 through a software that can detect the presence of a parasite that causes amoebiasis.
The ability to think outside the box served as the Team Visionaries’ ticket to reach the finals of the Accenture’s “Program the Future (PTF) Challenge 2019” and win its grand prize.
Team Visionaries is composed of Robert Espina, Alejandro Cansancio, Jericho Gantuangco and Wincent Tan, all Computer Engineering graduates from USC.
Armed with their software “Parasight,” a system that detects the presence of Entamoeba histolytica, a parasite that causes amoebiasis, using artificial intelligence, Team Visionaries bested 53 other entries from 17 other participating universities nationwide.
“We were really in shock. But we were happy that we won. That means the product is really useful. That’s one way for us to determine that the product we presented is good,” said Cansancio.
He said the entries were judged based on their use of emerging technology, social impact, uniqueness and usability.
Their team was able to give Cebu a back-to-back win for the annual PTF challenge. A team from the Cebu Institute of Technology-University (CIT-U) also won the competition in 2018.
According to Tan, the PTF challenge, already in its sixth year, is mainly about showcasing the Filipino students’ developed systems and ways to solve real world problems in various fields, including medical, agricultural, and education, among others.
At first, Cansancio said Parasight was just a thesis requirement for their degree program. He said the opportunity to pitch their idea in front of technology and industry innovators during the PTF challenge just came along the way.
“It actually took us like an entire year to develop the idea. The first semester was just all for proposal and paper works. Another six months to develop the model and another one month to refine our prototype for the Accenture’s (competition),” he said.
Cansancio said the lack of available technology in detecting parasites nowadays is what inspired them to pursue solving problems in the area of medicine.
“We decided that we would pursue in the medical field. One of our teammates, Robert Espina, he actually has a sister who is a practicing medical technologist and we asked what problems they commonly have,” he said.
“We actually have data from the DOH (Department of Health). According to them, the only method they used is the microscopy and we have actually studied about that, which showed that the specificity of it is low and the chances of misdiagnosis are high,” he added.
Among the struggles they encountered in developing their software was finding available “input”--like convincing medical institutions in Cebu City to provide them with microscopic images of the parasites, Tan said.
“We trained our models using two-data set because in artificial intelligence, you will need input. By using two-data sets, we used different images by two classification. We categorized the pathogenic and the non-pathogenic ones. For that, we actually have 2,000 microscopic images from stool samples: 1,000 for the Entamoeba histolytica and the other 1,000 for the non-pathogenics. We just combined whatever we gathered from online and from the hospitals and laboratories that helped us,” said Cansancio.
He said they hoped they could tap additional medical institutions to support them in their endeavor.
“Hopefully, they will support because the product really is useful. It aids in microscopy and improve the classification of the entamoeba,” he said.
The team took home the P300,000 cash prize.
Team Addie of De La Salle Lipa also received a special award: Accenture Technology Vision award for their personal therapy toy for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. (WBS)