My First Hackathon!

A month ago, I decided with 4 of my fellow IE Big Data Students to attend Hackatrips, our first hackathon!

The event was hosted during Fitur, one of the biggest tourism fairs in Europe. The theme for this year’s fair  was ‘Sustainable Tourism’. According to the organizers, an ideal hackathon team would consist of three developers, one designer and one tourism expert. Even though this was not really a Data Science hackathon, which is our area of expertise, we decided to go in order to know more about the hackathon process and its dynamics. We did want, however, for Big Data to be the center of our project.

An hour after the event had started, we already knew what our idea was and what types of tools we need to implement it. However, as the first 6 hours went by, we were struggling in trying to achieve a fully integrated solution due to some technical restrictions, which is when we decided that it was time for us to pack our bags and ‘leave with dignity’.

As we went to communicate our decision to the organizers, they cleared things up and explained that the purpose of the hackathon is to be able to present an idea while having at least a prototype available so that the jury could have a sense of what the purpose and design of the application were.

Knowing that, we decided to focus on selling our idea and go with an approach that consists in dividing the tasks according to our profiles in order to have something to show for the demo and presentation that were due the next day. Although just a few hours before it seemed hard to imagine, at the end of the first day we already had a working bot and a fully working CARTO map! The next day, we got there even more motivated, and by the time the final presentations were due, we already had an elaborated presentation, and a complete storyline.

Our project “BotTu”, is a data-driven solution aimed at analyzing unsustainable practices. It consists of a chatbot where users can denounce using images or text any violations against sustainability. All gathered information would then be centralized and stored so that NGOs or governmental organizations could use the CARTO maps, and visualize where, when and what type of violations are being reported.

At the end of the event, we were awarded the prize of the best use of CARTO. Since this is a Madrid based Big Data Visualization startup, we were extremely happy with the result. We learned a lot and not only did we ‘hack’ a Hackathon without the skills needed but we also kept going even when the goal seemed impossible to achieve.

Since this was our first hackathon, we identified some of the painpoints that held us back at the beginning of the event. So, if you ever attend a hackathon, keep the below tips in mind:

1- This mistake has cost us hours: You do NOT need to have a fully working solution. As long as your idea is solid and you have a prototype to show, you’ll be fine.

2- Collaborate with your teammates and give it your all.

3- Since time is limited, divide the tasks among your team as corresponds with every member’s skills.

4- The presentation is very important. Make sure to spend enough time preparing for it.

5- Work efficiently.

6- Don’t give up too soon.

Our presentation and interview can be found in the below link!


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