Two Malaysians Stole The Spotlight In AWS DeepRacer Women’s League ASEAN By Winning Top 3

Two Malaysians Stole The Spotlight In AWS DeepRacer Women’s League ASEAN By Winning Top 3
Oct 26, 2020
4:42 pm

The AWS DeepRacer Women’s League was a race between autonomous vehicles on simulated tracks organized by Amazon. The vehicles used were cloud-based as 1/18th fully autonomous race cars were built using Amazon Sagemaker which is a service that allows for building, modelling and implementation of models.

As there was fierce competition, two Malaysians (Lysandra Koon Sue Ann and Shobana Athiappan ) managed to stood on the podium with 1st runner up and 2nd runner up prizes respectively.

Malaysian Podium finishers Lysandra (left) and Shobana (right).

The AWS Women-Only DeepRacer league is part of the commitment to prepare for a future in diverse workforce. Participants highlighted the hope for more women to be involved in tech as they can get out of their comfort zone into a male dominant industry.

The competition was open to women above 17 enrolled in diploma/degree programmes. It was not restricted to those who did not have a background in programming as they were given access to the AWS Education programme which covered cloud computing concepts and relevant skills for this competition.

It was held virtually involving 5 countries which were Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore due to the covid19 pandemic situation. They first had to go through the qualifier stages and the Malaysian Qualifier was held on the 8th of August 2020.

5 women with the fastest time from each region wins US $300 each and those of first to third place take home a trophy and are chosen to represent their country in the grand finale where they will compete with the winners from other South East Asian countries. Lysandra and Shobana were 2 out of 30 Malaysian who participated in the Malaysian Qualifier and had managed to beat over 200 participants in the ASEAN region.

Here is a Q&A segment with the two winners!

1.         When did you develop a passion for Machine Learning?

Lysandra: During a semester-long university exchange in Australia, I took an elective that involved ML and computer vision. I find ML interesting and mind-boggling at the same time which has led me to explore online courses in ML, specifically supervised and unsupervised learning. 

Shobana: Coming from a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (AI) graduate, I have explored various aspects of technology and  realized that Machine Learning is a growing field. Most recently, I’ve had the opportunity to further explore ML by participating in the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 2020 Training Bootcamp. 


  1. What is the purpose of you joining this DeepRacer League and what is the message you hope to spread with your achievement?

Lysandra: I wanted to participate in this league to learn more about reinforcement learning (RL) to gain first-hand experience. I took advantage of the video tutorials provided by AWS as well as the AWS Educate credits we received.

The tech industry has been male-dominated for a long time, and initiatives like this help pave the way and motivate more women to develop and pursue their passion for technology. Through my achievement, I would like to persuade students, especially girls and women, to always be curious and not to fear trying their hand at something new.

Shobana: I joined to test my capabilities and explore the AWS DeepRacer while delving into Reinforcement Learning. I hope to inspire people to go after their goals – anything is possible when you set your mind to it. I am grateful for the opportunity, and so happy that AWS organized this women’s league to encourage more girls and women to explore the realm of technology.


  1. What is the challenge you face to prepare for this league?

Lysandra: I had a time constraint during the Malaysia League and almost did not participate.  I had just submitted a major project and was worried I would not have enough time to learn and prepare for the competition. Since I have no prior experience with RL, one of the challenges faced was the model that I was training did not converge or did not improve over time. This took several tries as well as code modifications to overcome. With the free credits provided for AWS Educate and hours of training, I was able to create pretty consistent models that I eventually used for the race. 

Shobana: As I was preparing for the league, I was looking for some guidance, but no one at my university knew about AWS DeepRacer. I was alone in seeking solutions and tuning the hyperparameters, and this was quite a challenge. AWS Educate is a good initiative for students who do not have a background in Machine Learning, and it’s encouraging that AWS is providing this opportunity for students from different majors.


  1. What is your dream for the future? What do you hope to achieve in your field of learning?

Lysandra: I’m still exploring all the opportunities available as I continue to learn. However, I am determined to be part of the tech industry. Perhaps I’ll be a tech lead or even work on my own tech startup one day. I hope to work on ground-breaking ideas and solutions that will improve the lives of many people. I also want to be more involved in AI as I know there is a huge potential in this field to make reliable solutions that are accessible. I believe that AI will help make the complex simple.

Shobana: My dream is to apply my machine learning knowledge for good. As I’m learning how to write research papers in university, I will look for some new ideas and knowledge to research and publish my findings. Contributing to a variety of ML-related research fields will be my greatest achievement.


  1. As we know that the tech industry is mainly male-dominated, how does it feel being women striving to pave your way in a male-dominated sector?

Photo credit to: Witi

Lysandra: The Tech industry is still under-represented by women. Initiatives like AWS DeepRacer League are vital because they give women the platform and the opportunity to showcase their capabilities while encouraging more women to pursue tech. I also believe it is important for women to encourage and motivate one another.

Shobana: Yes, technology is definitely male-dominated, and there is a skills gap in our local industry. I’m so happy and excited to see this initiative by AWS that will certainly help increase and normalize the participation of women in tech. I wish to break these stale stereotypes and contribute to the development of the tech sector. I would be happy to see AWS, and others in the tech field continue to organize events like AWS DeepRacer as I’m sure there are many other girls and women who would like to explore this field.

We would like to wish congratulations to both Lysandra and Shobana for making us Malaysians proud and we wish them all the best in their journey in the tech industry and we hope to see them as one of the big names involved in tech soon!

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Credits to our intern Nabil Luqman for drafting up this article. 

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