Belilios students shine in JSSE competition with idea to make travelling on the MTR more pleasant for Hongkongers

By Sebastien Raybaud

Their idea to use infra-red thermographic cameras to monitor body heat wins them a chance to be grand champion

By Sebastien Raybaud |

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Ailin Xiao (L) and Lala Yip shows that the images from the thermographic camera can show how crowded a carriage is.

Belilios Public School scooped first place in the proposal competition during the 50th Joint School Science Exhibition (JSSE) this year, with their idea to help MTR passengers find less crowded carriages by combining an infrared thermographic camera with the MTR’s existing app.

Thirty-one local secondary school teams participated in this year’s competition, which had a “community” theme. The objective was to identify problems in Hong Kong society and come up with solutions. Along with Belilios, 23 other teams are also moving forward to compete in the JSSE competition to be the grand champion.

Form Five students Helen Xiao Ai-lin, Lala Yip Si-wing, Tracy Tang Yee-ching and Janice Mok Tsz-yau formed the Belilios team. and they believe MTR crowdedness is one of the biggest problems Hongkongers face on a day-to-day basis.

“MTR trains are always crowded,” says Helen, who was on the research team, adding: “They’re packed like a sandwich. Our idea is to direct passengers to less crowded compartments quickly and safely.”

It was difficult to find the best way to show how many people are in each compartment.

“At first, we thought we could use carbon dioxide ratios and sound waves to measure the number of people,” explains Lala, who was on the programming team. “But as train doors open and close, the gas and sound fluctuate. It would be extremely difficult to collect data effectively.”

Using an infrared thermographic camera and the existing MTR app, you can see which carriages are less crowded.
Photo: David Wong/SCMP

After realising a thermographic camera was the best way to collect accurate information, the team spent HK$5,000 of the HK$6,000 budget their school gave them on it. “But buying it was difficult,” explains Helen. “We discovered there was only one available in all of Hong Kong!”

The proposal will be sent to the MTR to see if it is feasible to add thermographic camera data to their app.

“There are three colours which indicate how crowded a train compartment is,” Helen says. “Red means the train compartment is densely crowded, yellow means less crowded, and green is the most spacious.”

The team admits the idea has limitations, as it would be difficult for the camera to identify the best compartment during rush hour traffic. Lala says the team will evaluate any problems before submitting the proposal to the MTR.

“This year’s competitors were judged in five categories,” explains JSSE’s external secretary, St Paul’s Secondary School Form Five student Nicole Lau Wing-yan.

“The judges were looking at the ideas’ creativity, scientific knowledge, relevance to the ‘community’ theme, presentation skills and feasibility.”

The committee hopes to expand the programme further. “We want to encourage schools to promote Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] subjects,” says JSSE chairman and La Salle College Form Five student, Bryan Pang Jun-yat. “Through science, we hope students can be more observant of their surroundings, and use their understanding to improve our city’s problems. Lastly, we hope to recruit more schools to the competition to increase students’ scientific interest and knowledge.”

Next up, Belilios and their 23 competitors will exhibit their idea from August 23 to 28 at Hong Kong Central Library.

Whether Belilios’ idea is chosen or someone else’s, hopefully we will see some ideas that will benefit Hong Kong society.

Edited by Ben Young