Blueriders at HackYeah 2018

I’m always proud of Blueriders. Especially when they take initiative, face challenges, and turn them into successes. This is what happened with Michał Jadczuk and Piotr Pałkiewicz who decided to attend this year’s HackYeah2018 — the biggest stationary hackathon in the world!

Not only did they attend, but also managed to win one of the tracks together with their teammates from other Białystok based companies.

The Special Guest

HackYeah was noticed not only by technical people. The event was so big and recognizable that many Government institutions decide to participate.

No wonder that the Polish Prime Minister showed up and spent significant time talking to developers, including Blueriders (obviously ;)). As a matter of fact, one of the first things that we heard back from Michał and Piotr was feedback from that meeting.

It’s like when you call your mom to share some good news:

Software Engineer: Mom, I won a hackathon.
Mom: That’s sweet.
Software Engineer: Oh, and I’ve met the prime minister and took some photos.
Mom: Son!!! I’m sooo proud of you! I always believed in you!
Blueriders during a meeting with the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Let them speak

The best way to share how this kind of event looks like is to actually ask the guys. So here’s the conversation that I had with Michał.

What brings you to hackathons? No sleep, big crowds, barely enough showers, but you are still there to code for 24 hours. Why?

The thrill of the competition. It’s also incredibly motivating to finish a (somewhat) working product in less than 24 hours.

Tell us a bit about a problem that you faced in your task and how you managed to solve it.

We eventually settled on the “Health Myth Busters” track by Aviva. The goal was to create an application that would be able to tell the users to check how healthy is the place that they live in.
We solved it by building a database with various public data sets, and creating a web tool with some visualizations on a map interface. By aggregating data from multiple domains and allowing the users to modify weights (or importances) of each data set, we made an application that could help the data analysts to choose appropriate insurance costs for each region.

Did you have to prepare for the hackathon? Did you check out some new libraries that you thought might be useful?

Not really. We actually wanted to work on another project at first — we were still talking about different ways we can approach a different problem on our train to Warsaw. However, it turned out the data given by that task’s mentors was not exactly what we expected, and only half of our team would be able to significantly contribute to that project, as it required some domain knowledge. So not only did we come unprepared for our final problem, but we also had less than 24 hours to work on it after we finally decided to switch.
To be fair though, we did have some previous experiences with map interfaces, so we didn’t exactly have to learn everything from scratch.
As for the team building, we went with a very interdisciplinary approach. We had a UI/UX designer, a frontend developer, a backend developer, a data scientist, a data analyst and a domain-expert-turned-full-stack-developer. This turned out great, as we were able to work pretty much independently and had no problems with any aspects of the project.

Was this your first hackathon event?

No. It was my third hackathon this year where I participated with a similar team.
The first was the BioHack competition held in Łódź, where we managed to win with an application that analyzed bacteriophages genomes. The tool was able to detect whether a bacteriophage strain is lytic or lysogenic based solely on its DNA, all thanks to a custom algorithm using convolutional neural networks. This one is easily my favorite, as we had the technical know-how, but none of us were biologists or bioinformaticians, so we had to learn a lot about the domain in a very short time to even understand the problem we were about to work on. And as a data scientist, I could focus on the fun part: building ML models.
Recently, we also won a hackathon sponsored by the Ministry of Digital Affairs with a goal to improve their open data platform: dane.gov.pl. The application that we created aimed to help the users track how public funds are spent. Thanks to a smart search feature based on NLP, you could look for similar agreements between various ministries and private entities.
I also used to participate in multiple local game jams, including EGUJam organized by East Games United and several editions of BialJam at the Białystok University of Technology. However, my hobbyist gamedev days are behind me. :)
It was the first hackathon that Piotr had attended though, and from what I’ve heard — he was very excited about that.

What did you like and did not like the most about HackYeah?

Let’s start with the positives. No surprise there —the moment we heard our team name and found out that we won was the best. :) Of course, you go there to have fun and challenge yourself, but if you actually manage to win, it’s surprisingly motivating and rewarding.
As for the bad stuff, I think there were some organizational issues that are more or less unavoidable when it comes to such big events. The poor food, the constant noise, the cold, the late night concert next to the silent zone — I feel like I would start ranting badly, so let me just say that I prefer smaller hackathons that focus on a single problem.

Would you like to add anything else?

Hackathons are a great way to remind yourself why you started programming in the first place. Don’t hesitate to participate if you have the time and opportunity.

Thanks and Congrats

I would like to thank Michał for sharing his thoughts and observations and once again congratulate all team members, and of course especially Michał and Piotr.

It’s a great pleasure and day by day satisfaction knowing that such talents work and effectively solve problems for our partners.

From the left: Adrian Toczydłowski, Piotr Pałkiewicz (Blue Rider), Marta Zajkowska, Michał Jadczuk (Blue Rider), Łukasz Wałejko, Paweł Szeszko