Hacktour UAQ QRO
Last saturday I had the chance to participate as a judge for a Hackathon at Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro. The competition was organized by Software Guru as part of their Hackatour initiative. It lasted for 24 hours where students from different universities developed apps and prototypes that aimed to solve ecological, security and social issues.
I arrived right at the end of the development phase on saturday afternoon. Despite the high temperatures of that day, and the fact that most students had been hacking for well over 24 continuous hours, the energy on the Facultad de Informatica was great.
I have no doubt that given another day, most students would have developed greater things. That is not to say that they did not deliver, what some of these guys could deliver with a night of coding, snacks and their drive was amazing.
There were a total of 28 teams, most with 4 participants which gives us an average of 112 participants. Although most students participating are from the same university there were a couple visitors from Leon and Ciudad de Mexico.
Teams were given exactly 2 and a half minutes to present. At that time a buzzer rang and presenters were cut short. This was unfortunate as many teams were just getting started with their demos at that moment. We as judges also had no chance to ask questions, which left us wanting more. However these heavy restrictions on time were necessary to keep the event moving. As we spent more than 3 hours between presentations and taking our final decision.
The judge panel was formed by:
Ivan Terol: Computer science teacher with focus on Computer Vision
Helio Pareja: Member of the Secretaria de Desarrollo Social Queretaro
Pedro Galvan: Co-founder + CEO at Software Guru
Myself: Front-end architect at occmundial.com
We judged teams based on 3 criteria:
How effective was their solution in solving the problem.
How creative was their solution.
Use of technology.
There were all kind of projects present, from simple-websites, smartphone apps and hardware solutions. Some you could tell the team poured their heart on, and some others that could only get a participation badge.
Unfortunately space here is not enough to let me talk about all of them, so I will focus on the 4 finalists. We asked these teams to present to the judge panel again their projects on a closed room so we could finally get our questions in.
This team, made of students coursing their second semester on Leon blew us away. They had brought a glove with a light sensor they had been working before, and it could detect the color of the surface the tip of the finger was touching.
During this hackathon they added force and tension sensors. This way they could use this glove on physiotherapy patients to track their progress.
While the glove in itself is impressive, what amazed us was that they were tracking these statistics on real time on Azure Stream Analytics.
This team of soon to graduate UAQ students proposed a very ambitious project. Through the use of the smartphone camera they aimed to identify objects on scene and through IBM’s Watson API identify what were they.
The objective being helping people with vision disabilities. Because of how ambitious the project was they only got smart parts of it working. They could separate objects on an image, but not identify them individually. They could connect to IBM’s API but it was done on a PC instead of a cell phone.
We still commended this team on their use of the tools available and the incredible progress they managed on a single day.
This was BY FAR, the most common idea among participants. A social app in which users could report security incidents like robberies on a map; very wize-like. However this is the team that managed the best implementation. When presenting on stage they handed us cell phones in which we could see reports on a map they were creating on real time. Also the phone would let the user know when they were close to an incident.
However, I had participated in several hackathons on my own, and know that when presenting the app, it may not be fully functional. You can always hard-code some data to make it look production-ready. I thought this was the case, but was I wrong.
On the final interview they showed us their database, API’s and fully functional apps. Only thing they missed was push notifications, as apps were constantly polling their service for information on incidents.
Very similar to the app above, but way more ambitious in scope. They planned to collect data on suspects to identify cases in which the perpetrator was the same; and even try to predict when criminals would strike next. They promised the use of data analytics and machine-learning. However we were very disappointed on the final interview to find out that, even if there are public tools to do some basic machine learning (I’m looking at you AWS), they were using good old switch for their matches.
Even if they did not deliver on the promised, I have to give them a big shoutout for being the only team on giving us access to their repository.
Before I jump to the winners. I have to show you one of my favorite projects shown
Visual protect aimed to prevent traffic accidents in which people stay asleep at the wheel. It was a very charming and naive idea. As seen on the image, the project was a hat with a duct-taped arduino and a couple of sensors that rang an alarm when the user’s head tilted. Not even featured as a finalist, but my heart has a soft spot for wearable tech, especially with cables coming out from it.
It was very tough to choose a winner. There were plenty of teams that we would have liked to have a second presentation with, but time was running short and the crowd was growing impatient. We had an internal tie for 2nd place between Thief Tracker and Eyehelper. Although the latter was very forward thinking, we had to give it to the guys who delivered on their promise. So Thief Tracker went home with many prizes and a well deserved runner-up award.
First place was unanimously given to Piano mecano. We thought they had an advantage coming in, as they were one of the few teams to arrive with something done before hand. However, what they did on friday and saturday was not easy to pull of, and they really got out of their comfort zone.
Both winners were given an assortment of gadgets and toys to reward them on their hard work, and to keep them on their successful tracks towards being excellent developers.
I was very glad to be invited and to see that future generations of developers are doing a great job. Although I was a little disapointed we didn’t see many people using new web technologies (No React!), we were very happy to see the passion and creativity of these guys. Thanks again to Software Guru and UAQ for the invitation. I look forward to see what will win the next Hackathon on the Hacktour!