Report From #HackathonPune

We took over Twitter

A year ago Fresco Capital and e-Zest organized the first ever Hackathon to take place in Pune, India. It was such a great success that we decided to do it again. This year’s Hackathon was September 23–24th and and it was incredible.

As the prize was sponsored by the Laudato Si’ Challenge, the theme of the Hackathon was “Chasing a Billion Dreams — Building uncommon apps for common people” and the guidance I gave at the beginning of the Hackaton was the seven categories of the Laudato Si’ Challenge.

Explaining the Laudato Si

After we did the opening and set the ground rules, e-Zest CEO Devendra and I had to go and personally sign the 250 certificates of completion for the attendees. It took a while for us to sign all the certificates, but we had a lot of fun doing it. We joked and said this is what it must be like when the president takes office and immediately has to sit down and sign a bunch of stuff.

No event in India is complete without the certificate! 😉

As the day started to turn to night, I went to visit as many of the 100+ teams as I could. The standout teams to me where:

  • Emergency response: increase ambulance and police response time via location services, GPS, etc (the goal was to get an ambulance faster than an Uber)
  • Job and skill learning/improvement using machine learning (ML)
  • Augmented reality social media like Pokemon Go for social activists
  • Crop health app via image analysis of drone photos
  • Car lane sensor and software for the masses
  • A Firefighting robot
  • Wheelchair automation and navigation
  • Governmental services for the masses
  • Solar power installation chatbot
  • Farming automation and instrumentation via Industrial IoT

As you can see there was a healthy mix of software and hardware solutions. The trends were around some of the major problems in India: traffic, farm yields, competitive job market, and governmental services. It was great to see the Laudato Si’ values being implemented at a Hackathon in India.

We have a problem with not enough women in IT jobs in the United States. That is not the case in India: about half of the Hackathon participants were women. 50% of the winners at the Hackathon were women as well.

About 12 hours after we started, the developers started to get tired. That is when we took a break and had the live band come out and play. We temporarily turned the office into a nightclub.

Developers getting down

After midnight the sleeping bags came out and some people crashed for an hour or two. I was struggling with jet lag and cheated and went back to the hotel for about 4 hours of sleep.

Its not a hackathon without sleeping bags

At 6:30am the judges started to arrive and talk to each team, taking a few hours to narrow the field down from 100+ teams to a short list of about 10.

Final presentations

The final teams made their presentations and we chose the top three winners. While there was a lot of impressive hardware, all the shortlisted apps were software apps with the themes of: farming, social activism, governmental and emergency services, and traffic.

Looking forward to next year.

Report From #HackathonPune was originally published in Fusion by Fresco Capital on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.