7:30pm, Friday 1/20/17-After having a delightful dinner with all my friends at Scotty’s Brewhouse to celebrate our accomplishments, I was super full of food but also of appreciation for the wonderful people who surround me, who inspire me to work hard. I really wanted to linger and invite all of them to my place to relax and hang out but I had to rush to my first Hackathon…
Still in my semi-formal dinner attire, I threw on a pair of glasses to try to fit in with the crowd that I expected at this Hackathon. I felt a little self conscious walking into the Purdue corec (our gym) in my booties, holding piggy slippers, and carrying my pillow.
I quickly checked in, and as I looked around I was so impressed by the organization of everything from the name tags to the water stations, and just the overall layout in general that “BoilerMake” used to facilitate this 36 hour event. I was late to the opening ceremony where each sponsor went up and announced each of their challenges, and the respective prizes. There was an air of excitement and hope that loomed over the energetic hackers in the small gym that I was immediately sucked into.
Being late was actually a blessing in disguise because I was able to spot two of my friends, Anna and Liz hanging out off to the side because they were volunteering. As soon as I saw them, I joined them, and I finally felt more at ease. Shortly after, I was able to find my teammate who was I was able to connect with through a mutual friend, and he also brought his roommate (also a CS major) to form our initial team of three.
With my two newly introduced teammates and my two friends from my major who were volunteering, I felt like I was in a good place, though it was my first hackathon, the awesome people around me were the ones who helped me have a great start to this experience.
Honestly, looking back Friday night I felt like I contributed the most, perhaps it was the energy that stemmed from the hope that we could win actually win something. Maybe it the excitement that came from learning about what the CS majors could do, and seeing how IE majors could fill those gaps. Eventually Liz, joined our table and helped us brainstorm to the point where we inevitably decided she was on our team. After many debates we decided to do the challenge that incorporated using open source grocery data to optimize the shopping experience sponsored by 8451.
Liz’s (and eventually our team’s) idea was to make it more fun and frame our app as a apocalypse prep app. The user could identify what kind of apocalypse they believed in, when it would be, and insert their own health information, so that our app could help them prepare food and fitness to survive the disaster, using internal machine learning mechanisms.
The most challenging part of the brainstorming for me was understanding that the best idea is not always the most profitable or feasible one; it was okay to be creative. An example of this that one of my teammates, Nikhil gave was about how in a past hackathon he went to, the winner made an app where someone could launch a toy bird into the air, and a friend could take a picture of the bird and that would “kill the bird.” It was more or less just a fun game. I had to try to get out of this IE mindset about how each idea must be justified with monetary value and I had to try to “think outside the box.” Friday night, after we agreed on the idea, we had just a little time left so Liz and I worked on collecting input data and figuring out what options the users could have when entering their info on the interface before we all went home for bed. (No I did not end up sleeping over at the hackathon).
Saturday, at noon our team regrouped and our goal that day was for the CS Majors to create the app and interface, and insert the data that the IE’s had harvested, including the HTML and CSS template for the website. I was quite surprised at what Liz and I were able to contribute. When our teammates Naman and Nikhil talked to us about the code and their objectives in each coding language, it actually didn’t sound like gibberish to us, thanks to our IE 332: Computing in Industrial Engineering course. Also, there when there was a quick question on how we were going to correlate all the megabytes of data to provide food and workout recommendations, I was able to recall some information from my STAT 512: Applied Linear Regression course, to suggest ideas on how to sort binary information. Unfortunately, I had to leave the earliest of the team for a prior commitment I had Saturday night, but I thought it was cool to see two widely different disciplines of STEM come together and collaborate.
Before I left, I followed Anna and Liz to the sponsors booth to talk to them just to connect and share ideas. Many of them also commented on how it was cool that we had a diverse-disciplined team. I think our team mirrored working in the real world and it was a great lesson for me to take away, since I got to see first hand how two majors can compliment each other to execute amazing ideas.
Finally, on Sunday we presented to about three groups, and although we were unable to get our interface to work with all our algorithms and statistics equations, we made the most of what we did have and we spun it off as a product recommendation engine. At the end of the day, we did not win one of the many fabulous prizes, but I just wanted to learn something from this event, and I definitely did, so my mission was accomplished!(alluding to this year’s space theme).
Below are some photos of me taking an artistic break and entering in the Major League Hacking sponsored Soylent bottle doodle contest:
(I made a twitter account just for this contest so check it out @pamazing1515)
Special shoutouts to my best friend Arpitha for hanging out with me on Saturday right after work for four hours at the event and my better half, Scott for volunteering for Boilermake before I even asked him to visit me, and staying with me the whole morning and afternoon on Sunday from the presentations to the tear-down. Love you both so so much!