UAE Hackathon 2018 — Data for Happiness
The UAE Data for Happiness Hackathon was organized by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the UAE to promote local innovation and publicize the UAE’s official open data portal — Bayanat.ae.
Bayanat.ae is home to a plethora of valuable data made public by the UAE government with an aim to enhance transparency. Data from a variety of domains, such as — transport, environment and education, are available in well-maintained and easily accessible formats.
Throughout the Innovation Month, different editions of the UAE Hackathon were organized in multiple emirates. The IBM Developer Experience (DevEx) team (based in United Arab Emirates) was fortunate enough to participate and be a strong part of the proceedings. Developer Advocates from our team traveled far and wide to reach different venues and offered mentoring, training and overall support to the participants at these Hackathons.
This write-up summarizes our experience of the UAE Hackathon 2018 in the emirates of Sharjah, Ajman and Dubai.
On the 18th of February 2018, Areej Essa kicked off two different workshops — one on Artificial Intelligence and the other on Blockchain. In the first workshop, she demonstrated the different IBM Watson services and discussed how they could be integrated into applications. Following this, she gave a hands-on session on using the Watson Tone Analyzer service to determine the tone behind the audiences’ tweets (from Twitter) and classified them into positive or negative. In the second workshop, she introduced the concepts of Blockchain and discussed the problems that it addresses. She then demonstrated how the technology can be utilized through a hands-on session in which she built a voting application on Blockchain using Hyperledger Composer (an open-source Blockchain technology).
On the second day of the Hackathon, Mahitab Hassan mentored the teams by providing advice in terms of what the teams should point their focus on. She also gave valuable feedback and assisted the teams in finding the right data sets for the solutions that they had envisioned.
Ideas ranged from — recycling Air Conditioning waste water and condensation in buildings for irrigation systems to creating a system that predicts when you are likely to get sick to building a system that helps guide consumers to the right region for finding a place to rent.
At the start of the third day, teams were getting ready to pitch their ideas to the judges for a chance to make it to the final round. Stress could be seen in the air, but excitement was the dominant emotion. Teams were extremely pleased with the experience as it presented them with a great learning opportunity. There were also many Hackathon first-timers present!
In the end, everyone was content that they were able to contribute to the society with a solution that could potentially help the UAE as it ventures on its journey towards innovation!
The Ajman edition of the UAE Hackathon commenced on the 19th of February 2018. Interestingly enough, the Ajman edition (mostly) ran in parallel with the Sharjah edition of the UAE Hackathon.
On the first day, Mr. Richard Kerby — the Senior Inter-Regional Adviser on e-Government, introduced the first workshop at the Ajman University. This workshop was led by Saif Rehman, a Developer Advocate from our team. Saif introduced the concepts of Blockchain and walked the audience through creating their first end-to-end Blockchain application using Hyperledger Composer. During this session, he also discussed creating a mini grade portal on Hyperledger Fabric (another open-source Blockchain technology). The workshop caught the interest of all the participants, including professors and faculty from the IT department.
It was a success! Said was requested to present more Blockchain workshops at the University. Great job, Saif!
On the second day, Developer Advocate — Worood Dabbas, started by mentoring the different teams at Ajman University. She visited the different teams, talked with them about their projects and proposed using services from the IBM Cloud platform to streamline their development processes and bring their ideas to life. Worood showed the participants the right steps to sign up for an IBM Cloud account and got them started immediately. Following this, Saif gave another workshop on IBM Watson. He demonstrated how to create a hybrid mobile application with Ionic using Watson services.
Finally, on the 21st of February, all teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. Teams explained their ideas and brought them to life with concepts, prototypes and applications. In the end, decisions were made and a number of teams were nominated to attend the final round to be held at the Zayed University in Dubai.
On the 25th of February 2018, three Developer Advocates — Naiyarah Hussain, Aoun Lutfi and I made our way into the prestigious Dubai campus of Zayed University situated in the bustling Academic City area of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The Zayed University proudly bears the name of the Founder of the Nation — the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and pays tribute to his evergreen vision. We were absolutely stoked to be a part of this three day one-of-a-kind event.
We kicked off the first day with some intuitive workshops featuring IBM Cloud. I started the first workshop of the day, titled — Introduction to Cloud, with a humble audience of ~20 members. The audience mainly consisted of individuals foreign to the concept of cloud. I went over the various facets of Cloud Computing and dissected the meanings of IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service), PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) and FaaS (Function-as-a-Service). Next, I introduced the IBM Cloud platform and briefly went over its User Interface while explaining its various offerings and service. Lastly, I showed the audience a simple example on how to deploy a Python Flask Web Application on IBM Cloud. This example involved creating an account on IBM Cloud, downloading the IBM Cloud CLI and pushing the program as a Cloud Foundry application. At the end of this 45 minute workshop, the audience were enthralled having learnt something new and cool!
Surprisingly enough, I was given the slot for the next workshop too! So, I kicked off the second workshop of the day, titled — Introduction to Watson. Yes, there were a few familiar faces (from the previous workshop). I guess they really wanted to explore IBM Cloud!
The purpose of this workshop was to showcase IBM Watson and its powerful cognitive services. To achieve this, I decided to select a service and build something with interaction from the audience. I chose my favorite Watson service — Watson Conversation. After driving the audience through an introduction to Watson and discussing its various service, I announced that we were going to build a chatbot. Fortunately, most of the audience members were familiar with the concept of chatbots and virtual agents. This made it so much easier for me!
So, together with the audience, we built FoodBot — a simple chatbot to help us order food based on our cuisine preferences. FoodBot featured the design and usage of the Watson Conversation concepts of intents, entities and dialog flows coming together to create a chatbot. While the session was limited to 45 minutes, the audience were able to appreciate the simplicity of using Watson services and quickly putting together a usable prototype.
The third workshop of the day was conducted by Aoun, titled — Introduction to Machine Learning. The purpose of his workshop was to introduce the audience to the world of Machine Learning. Aoun covered different types of ML problems such as classification and regression, and discussed possible algorithms to achieve them. He also discussed real-life examples of using ML as a solution to solve a problem. The audience were keen to learn more! Next, Aoun introduced IBM’s Data Science Experience (DSX) — an online platform to learn, create and collaborate on projects revolving around Data Science. It features a plethora of exciting tools and features, and allows easy deployment of Machine Learning models on IBM Cloud.
The workshop was a success and Aoun was met with a lot of well-wishers at the end! Great job, Aoun!
The second was solely dedicated to mentoring. We were joined by our colleague — Kunal Malhotra too!
It is an awesome experience to sit down and have an elaborate conversation with a team, hear out their thoughts and help them in any way we can… and that’s what we did!
Each of us went around the various rooms to approach teams. We heard out their ideas and what they wanted to build. An interesting thing to note is that — team’s were very brave and confident of their ideas! Having faith in their own idea makes it much easier to execute and present! All in all, we tried our best to support teams and help them out by providing resources, technical expertise and overall assurance.
On the third day, teams were supposed to prepare a short pitch and present to the judges. The judges would then shortlist ten stupendous teams to the nationwide finals round.
The atmosphere at Zayed University was filled with mixed-emotions. However, the most common emotion was — excitement. Participants were nervous, ecstatic and enthusiastic to pitch their ideas and make it into the finals round!
We (the Developer Advocates) met with teams that we mentored and discussed any last minute issues, inspirations and thoughts. We guaranteed our support and wished them the best of luck for the pitching stage!
At the end of the day, ten teams were shortlisted by the judges into the finals round which was to take place on 4th March, 2018.
The Final Day (4th March):
On the 4th March, the organizers invited all the shortlisted teams from the different emirates. The crowd was humongous and filled with excitement!
We were joined by our colleague, Mahitab Hassan, who was a mentor/trainer at the Sharjah edition of the UAE Hackathon.
The day started with an exhibition-style gathering in one of the conference rooms at the Zayed University where visitors could interact with teams and talk to them about their projects. We were glad to see familiar faces (i.e., teams that we mentored earlier).
Finally, the moment arrived.
Everyone made their way to the magnificent auditorium. Teams were seated based on their emirate and VIPs were seated in the front. We were lucky to have Her Excellency Ohoud Al Roumi, the UAE’s first Minister of State for Happiness, in the audience.
The program kicked off with the national anthem of the UAE. Then, various dignitaries gave speeches and expressed their gratitude to the organizers. The award ceremony started off by expressing thanks to the various entities which supported the UAE Hackathon. We (IBM) were called on stage and given a token of appreciation for our complete support for the Hackathon.
After this, the winning teams per emirate were announced. Claps were given, arms were raised in victory and Snapchat stories were populated with selfies and photos of the winners!
It was a wonderful experience for us — the DevEx team — to be a part of the UAE Hackathon. It was intriguing to work with different participants and support them on their journeys to greatness!
Further, we are proud to have contributed to the UAE’s Innovation Month, which occurs in February.
We had fun and thank the organizers for their support and love!