Last Friday (May 9, 2014), I attended my first ever hackathon. The event is part of the “The 1st Philippine TechCamp : Disaster Risk Reduction and Response for Resilience Building”.
Anyway, I was lucky enough to be paired with Steve who’s a “veteran“ when it comes to these kinds of events.
#TechCamp Hackathon Day 1
The first day was fun. There was free dinner, pizza and ice cream. Coffee was available every time too. We ended up having an embarrassing team name– Moom Manes! (Please don’t judge). There were solution sets provided based on a previously held Tech Camp brainstorming. All of which are ways to reduce disaster risks in the Philippines. Our chosen app came down to one of Steve’s ideas — a simple visualization dashboard for real-time flood and landslide monitoring. This will help the LGUs be educated and alerted in times of disasters.
We used JS for the visuals and some PHP for the API. I did the backend API. A fake class that has the endpoint and stuff. It’s pretty basic. Don’t ask why we used PHP though. I know my partner probably hated me for using it because he’s an active member of PyCon PH. But, he was kind enough to compromise because that’s the language I am comfortable with. Plus, the codes were basically JS-centric so he didn’t dwell on it that much.
Anyway, so the whole night was about coding. My partner slept there and I went home 3am. We were done by this time. The app just needed some more UI enhancements.
#TechCamp Hackathon Day 2
I went back to the area at around 9am. When I got there, my partner was playing DoTA. Hahaha. In short, we were really done the night before. Just kidding. Steve worked on some UI stuff while I was out.
Breakfast. Lunch. Submission of apps. A talk. And then came the dreaded presentation of apps. Everyone knows I suck when in front of a crowd so I just kept it simple. I jotted down my “speech” which goes something like this:
“We chose solution set #3 which solves the problem of LGUs failing to effectively make quick and smart decisions because of lack of concise data.
Basically our app monitors rainfall and slope displacement. This means that it can give info if landslides or floods are imminent. The app’s design is very simple and direct-to-the-point so LGU people can understand information AT A GLANCE.”
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Then Steve came in for more detailed explanation. #LikeABoss
It was fun. We were the 11th team to present and there were like 18 teams if I’m not mistaken. We were nervous at first but then in the end we made it through.
The apps presented were all great. There was this app that can tag a tree and log it, quadcopter that will collect images, app that can make permits easier to get, platform that can determine if area is safe, app that gets building hazards data and returns a permit to be signed by an engineer and many many more!
When I think about it now, ours is probably one of the simplest apps overall. It monitors the slope displacement and rainfall in real-time and translates the data into concise human-understandable information on a minimalist dashboard. It’s just more of a data receiver. It doesn’t do much processing. It just literally throws out some visualizations and direct-to-the-point info.
Here’s the screenshot of the app:
You can find a working prototype here: Kuwago App
Ps. We used just dummy running data generated to make it seem real-time when we present it.
We won a grant from USAID for this. I guess less is more, indeed.
Things I Learned From My First Hackathon:
- Do not be afraid to try even if you think you’re not good.
- Do not try to learn a new language in a hackathon. Use the language that you’re comfortable with. (tip from Steve)
- Do not try to make things complicated.
- KNOW YOUR USERS.
- Stick to the OBJECTIVES.
Bonus Realization: My eyes are REALLY bad. I couldn’t see the stuff being projected there. I need eyeglasses with higher prescription!
(I don’t usually blog about events, but when I do… I give a shout to out to the sponsors!)
The event was sponsored by the following:
- U.S. Embassy, Manila Philippines
- World Food Programme (Philippines)
- Globe Labs
- GDG Philippines
- Open Data PH
Special shout out to team “Fans of KatPadi”! for winning as well. (I hate you guys! :P)
We were interviewed by Tony Velasquez in his show ANC Future Perfect. Here, watch me choke while I get asked: https://anc.yahoo.com/video/disaster-resilience-apps-122420497.html
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