Students from Babeș-Bolyai University, in the SAS Curiosity Cup global final, with a project on deforestation in Romania’s mountains

A team of students from Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca qualified for the global finals of the SAS Curiosity Cup competition, along with nine other teams from around the world. The Romanian youth project used the SAS Viya solution to analyze the deforestation situation in the Carpathian Mountains.

The SAS Curiosity Cup competition brings together teams of students from around the world, who have the opportunity to test their skills in the field of data analysis in real situations. This competition tests and also enhances students’ knowledge of data science and analytics. Teams can use SAS Viya and SAS OnDemand for Academics solutions, as well as other university-licensed SAS tools, for project analysis.

T(h)ree Sentinel team, SAS Curiosity Cup finalist

Marian-Lucian Coțolan, Adina Tilea and Bianca-Nicoleta Marian are the three component members of the T(h)ree Sentinel team, they are coordinated by Lect.univ.dr Darie Moldovan, from the Faculty of Economic Sciences and Business Management within UBB Cluj-Napoca. The research that sent the team to the finals of the SAS Curiosity Cup competition concerns the classification of satellite images to detect deforestation in Romania.

Lucian Coțolan, one of the three students in the T(h)ree Sentinel team, is passionate about data science especially because “it offers the ability to discover patterns and extract insights that may not be immediately apparent. Also, the field of data science is fascinating due to the constant evolution and innovations that continuously appear. There’s always something new to learn and explore, whether it’s a new technique or tool, or a new practical application of data science.”

At the same time, Adina Tilea states that she “recommends participating in the SAS Curiosity Cup to any student interested in data analytics; we learned during the project not only about analysis techniques, but also about code and the use of SAS tools. Taking part in such a competition is a great way to deepen your knowledge outside of the university environment, preparing for the next step of a data science career.”

The T(h)ree Sentinel team’s research was based on two datasets containing satellite images: one containing images from the Amazon watershed and another containing images from four regions of interest in the Carpathian Mountains collected by the satellite Sentinel-2. The images were pre-processed and resized to be used in two classification systems: a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) based on the SAS Viya platform, but also a carefully calibrated ResNet50 model prepared in Python.

The system proposed by the Romanian students could help the authorities in the problem of deforestationBianca Marian believes that participating in the SAS Curiosity Cup also gave her “the opportunity to learn more about machine learning, but also to improve her teamwork skills. It’s interesting to see how three people can have wildly different, yet true, views on a subject, based on what they’ve each seen in the data they’ve collected.”

University lecturer .dr Darie Moldovan, who guided the three students, says that “the benefits of participating in such a competition transcend the simple chance of winning a prize. It gives students the chance to embark on an incredible journey of discovery, from finding a fascinating research topic, to obtaining and analyzing data, and then to preparing an exemplary paper that demonstrates the students’ high skills. This course in itself is an incredible experience for any team of curious and ambitious young people.”

The conclusion of the study started by the T(h)ree Sentinel team shows that the working method used can be used as a starting point for future forest monitoring systems, with deep learning systems having the possibility to play a crucial role in solving the problem of illegal deforestation from Romania. This technology can supplement ground monitoring for effective results, with the possibility of reducing the intensity and frequency of deforestation, thus protecting regional biodiversity. Authorities can use such a system to identify the most important areas where deforestation is taking place and to implement legal measures, while also having the opportunity to study the impact of various environmental policies.

“We are extremely happy to have a team from a Romanian university in the finals of the SAS Curiosity Cup global competition. The three young people are very motivated and excited about this field of data analysis, in which they have already made very important steps, even before their participation in this competition. We are convinced that such young people will contribute in the future to reducing the shortage of professionals in the labor market, this being one of SAS’s desired goals, both globally and locally”, said Alina Luchian, Academic & Education Territory Lead for Romania at SAS Institute.

The three students from Babeș-Bolyai University, together with the coordinating professor, will find out if they are the winners of the SAS Curiosity Cup competition on April 12, 2023, after the videos sent to SAS by each of the finalist teams will be judged.

Babe?-Bolyai UniversityCarpathian mountainscluj-napocadeforestationfinalmountainsPythonRomaniaSAS Curiosity CupSAS ViyasatellitestudentsT(h)ree Sentinel
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