Companies and educational institutions are turning to hackathons to stimulate creativity and find innovative solutions to tech issues they face.
Hackathons are usually collaborative programming events that intend to find a solution to a business issue. The programme developed at a hackathon can be as simple as an in-house spell-check application to artificial intelligence (AI)-based solution for a complex need.
Hackathons are being held at all levels – right from the Centre to the States. The Union government had recently launched the Smart India Hackathon under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India Initiative.
Private companies, large corporations, and educational institutions are also organising hackathons to drive innovation in students and to find solutions to their business challenges.
The hackathon ecosystem in the country saw a drastic growth in the past year. Recently, the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development Innovation Cell (MHRD-MIC) along with the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) jointly organised the first Singapore-India Hackathon in Chennai. It was a fast-paced, 36-hour competition to develop creative and innovative solutions focused on the theme ‘Smart Campus.’
What is hackathon
The objective of the hackathon is to collaboratively code in an extreme manner, to start from scratch and end with a working prototype. It is often a sort of competition, where teams of students in the form of programmers, developers, designers, and project managers come together to design and build a product.
K Vignesh Kumar (21), a second-year IT Engineering student of a private institution in Chennai and a regular participant in such competitions, said, "We can meet new people and we get to collaborate and innovate, thereby creating new products.”
Hackathons are also an efficient way of finding talent, he said.
Mutthu Anamalai, a final-year engineering student, who was the leader of the team that secured the first prize in the recent hackathon, said, “It is a great challenge and also a privilege to be working on real-time problems faced by our government and citizens. It will be a very fulfilling experience for students who design the solution.”
He said, “The hackathon will be a platform to solve some of the pressing problems we face in our daily lives, thus inculcating a culture of product innovation and a mindset of problem-solving.”
At this juncture, hackathons are a great add-up to a student's CV since it gives them real-time tech experience. "Experts in the field know that during a hackathon you get to increase your knowledge and gain teamwork experience. It says a lot about your personality and is proof that you are a person who takes initiative, seeking to have a deeper knowledge and all the way enjoying challenges,” said S Thiyagarajan, who works with Cognizant.
He said the companies which recruit know very well that students with some hackathon experience would have immense knowledge of accomplishing tasks fast.
K Anilkumar, an HR professional with a Chennai-based multinational software company, said students with hackathon experience would be given priority during recruitment. He said hackathon candidates could work in any environment.
Techdocs, a team led by Suhashine S and mentored by Dr B Geethanjali of the Biomedical Engineering Department at SSN had won a hackathon for developing a system using electromotive force that measures Blood Pressure (BP) continuously without wearing a cuff. The problem statement was given by GE Healthcare, BSDU in Jaipur and the students received a cash prize of Rs one lakh.
Out of the 250 teams that qualified for the grand finale, the Chennai-based KCG College team, Hack Six, emerged victorious and was declared the winner for its project titled ‘Sensor-Based Monitoring of Urban City Waste Water for Agricultural Use’ and the product was named Water Quality Monitoring (WAQM).
The project focuses on various water parameters such as pH, temperature, electrical conductivity, turbidity, and color for monitoring the water quality.
A six-member student team (Binary_Bombers) from SRM IST participated in Smart India Hackathon – 2019 and stood first in the Complex Problem category put forward by India Health Link to come up with an innovative way to bring up a healthier India by harnessing the power of social networks.
A completely user-friendly dashboard was developed by the team, which worked without any hassles on all platforms.
QWERTY Killers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have come up with an application of ‘Smart Eye.' The idea was to make a 24/7 emergency and security application using video intelligence on the feed from public security cameras (CCTV) and make the city smart and safe. The app could identify if a road accident has occurred and could then report the incident to the authorities concerned by sending a mail and placing a phone call.