What it takes to win a hackathon in 2019

Published by SG Code Campus
Sep 18, 2019 · 5 min read

2019 proved a landmark year of breakthroughs for our Code Campers both in terms of attendance and achievement at the prestigious Code::XtremeApps:: hackathon competition organised by IMDA.

In June this year, a record number of 36 students from SG Code Campus formed 12 teams to participate in the school category of the aforementioned CXA hackathon with the aim of brandishing their app development skills in building real-world applications. We don't want to give the ending away, but it was pretty awesome!

The Background

The theme of the competition this year featured challenges focussed on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. In this regard, the participants were tasked with building a digital solution to problems ranging from bad recycling habits to inefficient usage of water/power in Singapore. The problem statements were generally open-ended in nature and presented a design challenge to test the innovativeness of each participating team.

The Journey

Upon the release of the problem statements six weeks before the competition date, our students wasted no time in seizing the opportunity to begin ideating solutions in their respective groups. Each of the teams took the opportunity to participate in a week-long design thinking workshop run by our instructors, where they learnt and practiced human-centric design processes that currently drive most of the tech industry.

It was difficult initially, for the open-endedness of the challenge statements welcomed many possibilities for consideration. With time however, our students were able to look into specific problems that they identified with most, and target the biggest problem areas they saw in the current status quo. Subsequently, each team went through a brainstorming process which saw a manifestation of many (some highly unconventional) ideas as a potential solution. Our students were also taught to perform feasibility studies for each of their ideas; each team had to consider the technologies needed to build their solution and the potential financial costs of distribution to end users. For most teams, the end result of the week's worth of hard work was a manifest idea that was to be concretised in code.

To take their applications further, most of our students also sought to integrate cutting-edge technologies into their solutions. Examples included:

  • Using computer vision to accurately identify when a person is attempting to recycle items.
  • Using speech interpretation and interfacing to enable users to interact with the application without the need of sight.
  • Using blockchain to record transactions and contracts between users.
  • Using a sensor enabled Raspberry-Pi computer to track water usage.
  • Algorithmically finding the best cycling route between two locations in Singapore.

In the remaining weeks leading up to the competition day, each team would engage in discussion and debate, while constantly refining the functionality and design of their respective projects. The atmosphere on campus was electric as each student strove to give their best in the spirit of competition.

The Competition

On the 12th of July, our students went to the premises at Singapore Management University (SMU) for the competition itself - there, each participating team was presented with an additional curve ball challenge depending on the problem statement they chose to address. Thus, for the next 24 hours the teams were to continue to work on their solutions while ensuring that it addressed the hitherto unseen challenge.

After the 24 hour ordeal, each team had to present their projects to a panel of judges - where they were assessed on the following criteria:

  1. How well the solution addressed the problem statement.
  2. Innovativeness of solution.
  3. Prospective social and/or commerical value of the solution, and feasibility.
  4. Effectiveness of using technology in the solution.

Aside from the criteria that was given, all teams were also implicitly tested on how well their solution was communicated to the judges.

After the main hackathon event, 10 teams were shortlisted for a second round of judging. These shortlisted teams were required to improve and showcase their solutions in a more rigorous manner to a panel of industry experts, following which the top three teams would be chosen after further deliberation.

The Result

In the harrowing days that followed [the competition], 3 teams from SG Code Campus were shortlisted into the second round - and subsequently it was announced that our shortlisted teams were awarded the top two prizes! To add to the fervour, an additional merit prize was also awarded to the third team by the committee of judges to recognise the brilliance of their solution.

It is therefore our greatest pleasure to announce the following victors of the 2019 CXA Hackathon from SG CodeCampus:

  • 1st Place Winners: Jamie, Marcus and Matthew
  • 2nd Place Winners: Glenda, Nicole and Winston
  • Merit Award Winners: Markus, Vir and Zoey

More importantly, we also celebrate the endeavours of all the other teams from SG Code Campus who participated in the competition. It can be said that every single student had put their best effort in. We are proud to be witnesses of our students' grit and tenacity, especially during difficult situations where code did not work. After all, in coding, bugs and errors are inevitable, and the need to get individual components of an application working with each other successfully is a challenge even to seasoned coding veterans.

The Purpose

All in all, it is our directive that the purpose of sending our students for the hackathon was to give them the experience and environment where they have to reason carefully and apply their coding skills independently. To say that we have seen all our students improve themselves in terms of maturity and skills from this undertaking, would be a massive understatement!

More about Code::XtremeApps:: (CXA)

The CXA Hackathon is an annual coding competition organised by the IMDA (Infocomm Media Development Authority) designed to challenge participants in the field of app building with real-life applications. Competitors are given a set of problem statements, to which they will have to provide a digital solution. In the 2019 iteration [of the competition], the problem statements were aligned under the theme of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. This meant that participants could choose to tackle a wide variety of open-ended problems that include:

  • Optimising energy/water consumption.
  • Promoting awareness of proper recycling habits.
  • Designing smart transport applications to help people travel.
  • Supporting SMEs in obtaining access to financial services.

All participants were given 6 weeks to prepare their response to a selected problem statement, after which they were given 24 hours to complete an additional unseen challenge on competition premises at the Singapore Management University (SMU)'s School of Economics. After this gruelling ordeal, contestants were required to give a presentation of their projects. Each group was assessed on the following objectives.

  • Innovativeness
  • Effectiveness of Solution
  • Feasibility
  • Technical Prowess

The competition is divided into three categories with the aim of targeting participants of different age groups. The Junior category is aimed at primary school students, whereas the School and Open categories are aimed at the high school students and the general populace, respectively.

If you're interested to find out more about hackathons and how you can get started on the coding skills necessary to start competing, click here and get in touch!

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