InOut — Learnings From 2-Day Hackathon

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There are frequent tech events that keep happening in Bangalore, sometimes more than one good event on the same day. Google’s DevFest Bangalore was scheduled to happen on 13th October and on the same day there was InOut too. And I had to choose which one to attend as I had the confirmation to attend both. Thanks to my friend who said, “You should attend InOut, it’s really good” that I spent 2 days of the weekend, along with many other enthusiastic developers and makers, teaming up with someone who I didn’t know before, building a web app for face recognition, having conversations and discussions all day and night. InOut is a community hackathon which has been happening for the past few years. This year it had more than 4000 applications from different countries across the world and I’m glad I made it to this hackathon as I had some great takeaways.

Hackathon started on Saturday morning(it had some tech talks in the evening of the day before) and I could see excited faces all around — thanks to InOut’s welcome bag of swags. While it is open for everybody, most of the participants were college going students and it was quite nice to see them come up with some very good and interesting ideas. Though the hackathon had some topics of interest like Blockchain, AI, IoT, Health etc, the participants were free to build and work on any idea they had. The starting hours of Saturday morning had mixed scenes. While some of the participants were in groups, discussing their ideas and approaches to build, some already started to work(or to code!).

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Me and my teammate Utkarsh, who I didn’t know before attending the hackathon, had a discussion about some of the things we wanted to try and build. After about an hour, we finally settled with the idea to build a working model of an automated store that uses Face Recognition, Object Detection and Payment Automation using Deep Learning. While he took care of the UI part, I worked on the model building using TensorFlow for Face Detection and Recognition. Starting with the idea discussion and during many other conversations we had over the next 30 hours, we agreed and disagreed with each other on several things and all of this led to better decisions and improved code. This is what hackathons do, they provide the platform and environment to come up with ideas and get along with the team through discussions and agreements in the process of building the idea.

With each of us working on two different parts of the app, we had to integrate the changes from time to time. Version controlling is a must when collaborating. I made it a personal practice to initialize any folder/workspace that I work on as a Git repository so that even if I don’t want to push the code to any code repository, I can use it to keep track of changes. Many things can go wrong when working with code. The code that was perfectly working could break all of a sudden. You might spend time trying to fix something which isn’t the actual issue. For all these kinds of reasons whenever a feature/functionality works, do a commit so that you have a working state as a backup! This makes a lot of difference in situations where the app you are working on breaks an hour before you need to demo it(which happened to us)!

Swags and Stickers

Around midnight Saturday, we had a community meetup with the hackathon organisers. I was one among the few people who attended it. While I thought it’s just a discussing session, I realized after a few minutes that it’s not. InOut which has now become one of the biggest Indian community hackathons had started as a college event a few years ago. The organisers who were also the founders of InOut shared their experiences of starting a college level event and then growing it into a hackathon as big as this. Most of the others who joined this discussion were college students, who are also organising college level tech events. They shared how difficult it is for them to organise a community event considering the costs involved and also the lack of proper support from the colleges. It’s true so many efforts go into organising a community event!

As we were trying to fix a code issue post-midnight, we thought it’s better to get some sleep. Before I went off to sleep, I wanted to give one more try and fix the issue. Code bugs are tricky. They keep telling you they can be fixed in not more than 5–10 mins and then you end up spending hours, fixing the bug and then feeling encouraged to keep working more. More or less the same thing happened to me. While I stayed awake all night, making the application better and functional, the night had its revenge the next day morning, when it made me walk around like a zombie! Throughout all this, time was just flying..

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The organisers made sure that the 2-days we spent at the venue weren’t just about coding. There was food from time to time, energy drinks, contests, swags and Nash Vail who took the stage for the whole hackathon and kept the environment lively. Towards the end of the hackathon, we verified how the automatic checkin and checkout app we built works with the help of fellow participants. And it worked quite well!! What about the winners? There were some very interesting submissions but the one that got the majority of votes from judges and the biggest applause from the participants was SAD which stands for Sadly Distributed. With the presence of computing devices all around us, the idle time of the devices can be utilised for distributed computation. SAD is built on this idea. Congratulations 👏 👏

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Hackathons enable us to come up with ideas and provide an environment that reinforces and pushes us to deliver. A big thanks to InOut for organising such a wonderful event!!


Hackathons are a great opportunity to transform your ideas into solutions

Register, form a team, brainstorm ideas and start coding(see it’s simple)

Saving code isn’t enough. Commit the code, commit, commit!!!

You don’t have to be a geek/ninja/hacker to participate in hackathons 👍

Step into a hackathon like this one and you will come out with code(doesn’t matter whether it works or not 😉), new friends and a great experience 👏 👏

And swags as well 👌

Below is the demo of how the web app that we built during the hackathon looks as of now. I kept working on it and transformed it into an Identity Management system that registers an identity by taking the demographic details along with face and uses Deep Learning model for face detection and verification. It’s still a work in progress with a lot more features to be added:

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