Hackathons are important ways for coders and engineers, in general, to collaborate and build interesting solutions for important and pertinent problem statements. They are important building blocks in a student’s career as a learning and networking tool. We spoke to the organizers of some of the most popular hackathons conducted by NITK; Imagineer, Embedathon and Hackverse, to get their ideas on the events and the culture of hackathons in NITK.
Imagineer is an event that focuses on encouraging students through practical learning. The event is spread across a week with the intent of promoting imagination, creativity, and innovation and enhancing one’s technical prowess. The aforementioned will be implemented through a myriad of problem statements, covering various technical fields which will be assessed by professionals from these fields. It is an ISTE – ACM collaboration that takes place in the even semester every year.
Embedathon is a 24 – hour embedded system hackathon challenge hosted by IEEE NITK. It presents you with interesting problem statements to ensure a fun-filled learning experience. It is a unique event serving the electronics community. Usually, this event is held over a week for workshops, tests, talks, and the major event – the 24-hour-hackathon. This year, the 24-hour hackathon was conducted on medical applications for robotics in the Covid-19 scenario in the Robot Operating System environment.
HackVerse is a 24-hour coding hackathon that serves as a platform to encourage enthusiastic minds to brainstorm on solutions for challenging issues from all over India. The unified motive of gathering all like-minded hackers to college led to the creation of the idea in NITK Surathkal, the first of its kind. They provide a platform for innovations where developers can test and showcase their potential to the best of their abilities.
Why do we need them in the first place?
When asked about the importance of hackathons for a college student, the organizers noted that hackathons provide a way for students to see the outcomes of the efforts they put during the event. It is a more hands-on approach and pushes them to learn new concepts in a short duration of time. At times, the end products of a Hackathon go on to become startups. It provides a medium for bringing together like-minded individuals and hence aides in effective networking. The organizers believe it is an effective way of improving creativity and boosting self-confidence.
How well are we doing?
Talking about the trends they see in the “hacking” culture of NITK students, Prakriti Goyal (IT,2022), one of the organizers of Hackverse, observed, “The hacking culture at NITK is still evolving, there have been a good number of hackathons happening recently including the ones held by companies for NITK students. A good number of students are also participating in plenty of outside hackathons including the Smart India Hackathon. With our annual hackathon – HackVerse happening at NITK, we’ve seen an increase in the number of students participating from NITK and in the first edition of HackVerse the 2nd and 3rd prizes were bagged by the NITK teams.” Prakriti however felt, that currently there were far too fewer projects that were being continued after the hackathon was completed. She is however hopeful that with time, students will begin to work on their hackathon products as full-time projects. Vybhav Pai (CS,2021), one of the lead organizers of Imagineer noted the need for a community of developers to build up for participating and organizing these hackathons. He too mentioned the lack of long term projects springing up from the solutions produced in a hackathon. Rakshana G (ECE,2021), the lead Embedathon organizer, had quite an optimistic view of the same, “ I feel that the hacking culture in NITK is pretty active. Many students take part in various hackathons held within college by the technical clubs and the other well-known ones such as Smart India Hackathon, etc. Multiple teams place as winners and runner-ups at these national level hackathons from our college as well. Hackathons do not always mean literally what the name suggests but focus on creating and developing a specific problem statement with a time constraint. So, NITK certainly has a strong hacking culture in that respect.”
Do we need more of them?
Responding to the level of participation in their events, Prakriti was happy to tell us that the second edition of Hackverse, which was conducted online, saw the participation of an excess of 700 students from around the country. The event was a massive success both the years it was conducted and can be touted to be one of the best online hackathons to date. While Embedathon and Hackverse are open to the general public, Imagineer is an intra NITK competition. The event witnessed the participation of close to 100 1st and 2nd years from all departments of NITK. This year Embedathon also had participation close to 100 students. A large number of 2nd years take interest and attend these events.
When asked about whether more hackathons were needed among the plethora of events already conducted in college, the organizers believed there was always more space for quality events. Vybhav shared his opinions on the matter, “ The events need to be designed so as to accommodate students with different experience levels and should have good incentives to motivate the students to participate. The institute can provide support to good projects that come out of the hackathon so that the students can take it forward. Thus, the companies or startups that are formed will serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for the students to participate and build amazing solutions.” Though hackathons for the electronic and mechanical domains are being held, they are lesser in number than the software domain. Hackverse wants to expand to allow participation for other branches as well. Rakshana too had similar thoughts on the relevance of hackathons in NITK, “I feel there is no harm in the conduct of other hackathons, as the focus could be on a different domain that might represent the interests of a different group of students. Hackathons are just a way of creating exposure and encouraging a particular type of problem-solving skills. These new events will not be lost among the others in any way as long as the theme/area of focus is new and exciting/unique for the audience.”
Hackathons have slowly been becoming popular throughout the years in NITK. While participation in the events can always go up, it’s refreshing to see students look aside their academic load and work on interesting and important problems. The number and variety of hackathons should likely increase to include more and more domains in engineering.