Hackathon 2018

In June 2018, IEEE NUS student branch held its first ever Hackathon in LT6 of the E4 building in Faculty of Engineering. This Hackathon aims to provide a platform for cross-disciplinary appreciation and project implementation (hardware and software) – with an end goal of exposing the varsity landscape to hack culture. As this was IEEE’s inaugural  hackathon, most participants were students from ECE department of NUS. 

The difficulties of organising such a complex event without precedent quickly became apparent and we were not able to anticipate all of the problems and come up with solutions beforehand. Thanks to the support and guidance by Dr. Chua Ding Juan from ECE, Dr. Michelle Shao the educational coordinator in IEEE Singapore, the sponsor from local electronics supplier 12GEEKS.com and also the IEEE-NTU president Ashwin’s aid of information, we managed to overcome the disadvantage of having a short amount of time for publicity, with our event seeing 50 participants from 13 groups.

It was very promising and surprising to see this number of students who are actively interested in participating in this hackathon. This event attracted participants from NUS Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering. With the aid of Xiang Qian, the president of SUTD-NTU, we also saw a few participants from SUTD. We even saw a number of junior students who would be joining NUS in August 2018. This incredible response told us the pool of potential hackathon-participants is very large.

After publicizing the event, we gave the teams less than one week to come up with a list of needed components for the event day. We collated information on the required components and asked 12GEEKS to prepare and loan the components to us. Since this Hackathon is mainly catered to Electrical and Computing Engineering students, hardware implementation is a requirement. Before the event day we borrowed the necessary tools from the school’s lab including soldering stations, wire cutting tools, pliers, wire strippers. One day before the event day, we sorted the 12GEEKS-provided components by groups and also set up the tool stations in the active learning rooms. 

On the noon of the event day, we set up the registration booth in front of LT6. From 12:00 to 12:30, we gradually saw participants coming to register and chill inside the Lecture theater. After most of the participants finished signing in, Dong Tian started our event briefing at 12:30 to demonstrate the basic rules of Hackathon and also the safety briefing.

After the event briefing, the participants were introduced to the event venue – 3 active learning rooms along the walkway outside LT6. The Hackathon proper started at 1 PM Saturday. It was encouraging to see students from different disciplines and different schools working together to brainstorm and pitch an idea for this event. Due to the limited time for 12GEEKS to prepare the components, we were not able to supply all the components they needed. However, our participants actively came up with solutions to overcome the problem of lack of components. 

Throughout the 24 hours of hacking, three meals were provided, with free flow snacks and drinks. The first dinner served was a bento. The breakfast on the second day was sandwiches and takoyaki balls. Finally, the lunch after the hacking was a buffet set-up in front of LT6. In case some of the participants might get tired at night, a total of 10 bean bags were loaned from a local bean bag supplier and placed inside LT6. Later it was shown that 10 bean bags were barely enough for the 50 participants.

During the hacking, there were a shortage of display tools because many groups develop on Raspberry Pi 3s and needed  monitors when programming. On the event day only 1 HDMI monitor was available in each active learning room. Fortunately, Dr. Chua dropped by the event venue and lent us her work office monitor. 

After the 24-hour hacking at 1 PM, the lunch buffet was set up and the participants were invited to the LT6 area to enjoy the meal. However, there were fewer people attending because some groups were trying to finalize their projects before the final presentation. 

This time we invited Professor Koen Mouthaan, and Professor Rajesh Panicker from ECE department to be the judges of this event. They both had experience working in the industry and have been supportive with student activities in the past. The two judges arrived at around 1 PM. After some delay to allow students to finish their projects, the presentation session started at around 1:15 PM. Each team was invited onto the stage of LT6 to present their idea and demonstrate their prototypes. We were glad to see out of 13 teams signing up, 12 teams went up and pitched their ideas. While each group was presenting, there were great interactions between the audience and presenting teams. Questions were raised and the presenters all were very patient to explain the details of their development and implementation.

After all the 12 presentations, our organizing team collated the points given by the judges while our president Li Xiaowei was publicizing the IEEE-NUS student branch. Then we announced the winners of the 3 prizes, ‘the mind blowing hack’, ‘the practical hack’, ‘the troll’s hack’. The whole event was wrapped up by a group photo of all the participants and judges.