An exceptional Hackathon Experience

create Linta Paul
date_range 29-07-2020

There is a famous quote by Thomas Alva Edison and it goes like “Opportunities are missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. Many students feel reluctant to apply for Hackathons for a similar reason. The word “Hackathon” sounds like an event exclusively for extreme tech-savvy students but the reality is much different. Hackathons are platforms for any technology enthusiast to collaborate with people with similar ideas and to bring out effective solutions for existing social and economic problems. “Hackathons” doesn’t mean hacking contests, but it simply means to “hack a problem with technology”. The experience that I share here about Reboot Kerala Hackathon will give you a brief idea about hackathons.
Reboot Kerala Hackathon was a great hackathon event conducted by ASAP (Additional Skill Acquisition Programme) in three stages. In the first stage, a team of six students could select a problem statement from a detailed list of problems and they should give a detailed solution to the problem selected. There were over ten different categories of problems and 30 teams were shortlisted for stage two, per category. Our team of six (Abdul Basith, C Vyshnav, Femi Shaju, Linta Paul, Mahima P, Sneha U) were selected for the second round held at Naipunya College of Arts and Science, Alappuzha on category-Food. The second stage was a 36-hour long hackathon. We were allowed to select a problem fifteen days before the event. We chose to find a technical solution to "Monitoring food and environment hygiene at Sabarimala”. According to the rules the teams were supposed to develop their solution only during the event.

Reboot Kerala 2020

We reached our destination on 27th Feb evening. We were happy and thrilled to meet students from different engineering colleges in Kerala. That itself is the main advantage of going to Hackathons. You will be able to make connections with a lot of people which will automatically help you improve your social and communication skills. After the briefing, we dispersed for dinner. The next day hackathon kick-started after a formal inauguration. Each team was allotted a team of three mentors – each one to look over technical, subjective, and social aspects of the solution students create. ASAP volunteers were also available 24x7 for any help. And yes, hackathons are continuous!!! There aren’t any defined breaks. If you feel hungry you can step out and grab coffee or snacks from stalls installed within the venue. Or you may take a power nap and return with clear thoughts. From time to time mentors would come across each team desk and evaluate our progress. Not only that, but they will also give you really helpful tips to overcome the disparities in our solution. Hackathons gift you a mindset to constantly improve yourself. They teach you how to optimistically take criticisms and make the best out of it. At times we may feel helpless, but the mentors would cheer your team up and kindle back that team spirit that will keep us going. Hackathons are the best opportunities to learn to work in a team. It will help you to effectively consolidate different opinions into fruitful suggestions and incorporate the good from each into the solution.
There was an elimination round by midnight of 29th Feb, after which only the 15 teams shortlisted will be presenting their solutions before the expert panel the next morning. Being at a hackathon for the first time, we were pretty sure that we won’t be selected as final 15.But to our surprise, we were selected!!! We worked throughout the night creating a presentation for the next day. The next day morning we presented our solution before a panel of 30 experts from the industry. Our solution was to collect CCTV images from different hotels and detect dirty surroundings with the help of image classification machine learning algorithms. We were asked various questions about our solution. The next advantage of Hackathon-You learns to present and defend your idea. They will help you to overcome stage fear and teach you to explain your idea in a stipulated time. Keeping it short and simple is the basic success mantra of presentations at Hackathon. We listened to 14 other innovative solutions to various gripping food issues in Kerala. Again this is another advantage you gain from attending Hackathons-we learn to appreciate and recognize others’ work too. Although we didn’t win a prize we returned home happy because we had gained exceptional experience and nothing in the world would replace that. So all engineering students out there, do attempt for hackathons, they aren’t as scary as they sound.