ACES Hackathon, held annually for the last 5 years was held from the 29th of April to the 1st of May 2016 at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya. The hackathon, organized by the Association of Computer Engineering Students (ACES), brings together undergraduates from the Faculty of Engineering and Science for 3 days to develop their creative skills to provide innovative IT solutions.
Day One Of The Hackathon
As with any event, this too kicked off with the lighting of the oil lamp. A welcome speech by the President of ACES, Supun Athukorala was followed by a speech by Dr. Dhammika Elkaduwe, Head of the Department of Computer Engineering. He welcomed all participants and also thanked all attending the hackathon and wished them all the best. Following his speech was a speech by Prof. Leelananda Rajapakshe, Dean – Faculty of Engineering.
The teams were then treated to a small video showcasing highlights of the previous year’s ACES hackathon. It really did bring back memories and helped set the mood for the teams to gain inspiration for this year’s hackathon.
It was then time for a company presentation and video by the main sponsor, DirectFn | Mubasher and also a video by ISM-APAC. Akin to last year’s hackathon, this year had its fair share of speeches being carried out too.
Once all those were done and dusted, it was time to lay down the ground rules for the hackathon. We armed our laptops with our trusty dongles courtesy of Hutch and took our places in the hall.
Similar to the previous year’s hackathon, each individual participant had to present his/her idea in front of a panel of mentors and judges and other participants. If your idea hits a sweet spot with the judges, you are then given to thumbs up to create a team and carry forward the idea.
With that, Day One came to a close.
Day Two Of The Hackathon:
Dawned bright, early and also a bit chilly which was a welcome relief from the heatwave that was Colombo. The participants all gathered in the hackathon hall to form their respective teams. Speaking of teams, compared to the previous year’s hackathon, this year teams could have upto 8 members with a minimum of 5 members and they also had to have at least one female member on the team.
Armed with their laptops, power adapters, numerous internet getters and some music, the hackathon began. The ideas were categorized either into Network Systems (Hardware) and Software Development.
Adding their own ideas and thoughts to the teams own were mentors who were also past alumni of the University of Peradeniya and a number of industry experts as well. These parties shared their expertise with the participants on whether their ideas are feasible or not.
Akin to the previous year’s hackathon, this too was conducted in sessions. The actual coding or development of the project began on the second day at 8am and continued on till 8pm. So in total, the students had around 18 hours to finish the entire project.
Throughout Day Two, team members huddled around tables discussing codes, organizers were pacing the hall to make sure everything was in order and we ourselves walked around the hall to gather a feel of what exactly was happening.
Around 8PM, it was time to call it a day and participants were advised to pack up and head back to their hostels. The teams were determined to finish as much as they could throughout the night and some even stayed on in the hall till around 10PM. The level of dedication these individuals were displaying certainly demanded a high level of respect. Even though they packed up, chances were that they would continue working in the hostels too. We too packed up our belongings and headed to our accommodation for the night, a place simply referred to as the “Gal Bungalow”. A large two floor bungalow furnished from 1939.
Day 03 Of The Hackathon
This was it. The final countdown. The participants had already had their breakfast and were back at their tables adding the finishing touches on their products.
1 PM signaled the final deadline that the participants had for their projects. They were requested to have lunch and then congregate at the EOE Pereira Memorial Hall to begin the presentations.
Each presentation would be allocated 5 minutes for their presentation and a demo of their product and 2 minutes for a Q&A from the judges. Students were encouraged to stick to the given time or face a penalty. The judge panel included lectures and senior members of the faculty. Points for the project depended on a number of elements such as effort, user experience, usefulness and overall presentation.
Janitha Samarasinghe, a member of ACES was up on stage to take us on a trip down memory lane with regard to some of the events organized by ACES. These include ACES Hackathon 2015, ACES Coders V5.0, ACES Project Symposium and Job fair and a few other events.
Arjun Nanayakkara, General Manager of DirectFN | Mubasher was up on stage next to talk about the event itself. He commended both the organizers and the participants themselves for all their hard work and perseverance.
Anjana Abeyratne of ISM APAC was up next to give a brief background regarding ISM APAC, its background and what they do.
It was then time for the presentations.
First up was iMAS (Image Analytic Server) – A platform for image processing and analysis. It has a number of various potential uses. The demo had platforms such as a motion detection application, attendance marking, head counting and other applications. It wasn’t exactly one exact application but rather a more of a hodgepodge of applications cooked together.
Crime Zone – If you have spent countless hours on Facebook playing Criminal Case, then this is for you. Think of it as Criminal Case mixed with a portion of breaking bad. They attempt to merge a game and a service, the game being solving crimes and the service being teaching the player chemistry. You take on the role of a newbie with a flair for chemistry in a crime solving team. You must use your chemistry skills to solve crimes and thus earn points. In addition, chemistry tutors can advertise their questions within the game.
VLearn – This is a platform aimed at those who are differently abled. It offers a system where a visually impaired person can browse the Internet by voice recognition. It also takes into account your visiting history to provide more accurate and up to date content.
Smart Billboard Advertiser – We won’t deny that we’ve seen this concept a few times at multiple hackathons, mainly by a project called Amplus. The project aims to link the customer and the service provider via an Android app. The service provider will handle control of the advertising boards whilst the customer can control the board remotely.
VISITRAS – A hybrid between a surveillance system and a n indoor positioning system that create a real time 3D model of a building. The system has the ability to monitor the movement of objects in the building from data gathered from multiple CCTV camera feeds.
E-MaRK (Emergency Medical support and Record Keeping system) – Again, a concept seen at many a hackathon. This implements a system to keep records of a patient’s health records in order to provide a stable platform for communication for hospitals. An authorized doctor or patient’s relatives can monitor the health and status of the patient remotely.
Kapuwa.com – Initially launched as a platform to find your life partner, the system was renamed to
E-Personality to find not only your life partner, but also as a platform to find employment and even to make new friends. It would collect your information and them assist you in finding the perfect match, be it a life partner, a job or a new friend.
Hola – Similar to how you used to share your vCard (back when vCards were the thing) Hola is an Android app for e-business card management. It will search an area in your surrounding using GPS.
Smart Shop Finder – An Android app that uses GPS to locate stores nearby for a particular item. The user can enter the item that he/she wants to search for and the price range he’s looking at. The app will then compare results across stores and show the most relevant results.
Motify – This is a notification system for Moodle (Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment). Moodle is generally used for blended learning, distance education, flipped classroom and other e-learning projects in schools, universities, workplaces and other sectors. The implementation of this platform would mean that it would provide notifications when an assignment is due and when there are general announcements for students.
Offline Translator – As the name suggests, the app is indeed an offline translator with the capability of translating words or entire sentences from English to Sinhala and vice versa without having to access the internet. Indeed a useful app for the travelling foreigner who lacks the communication skills in Sinhala or the local whose English is a tad rough around the edges. Just for the record, to have Google Translate download an entire language for offline use is around 300MB. That is indeed a large file for those with low to mid-range smartphones.
Mini Track – A tracking device that emits a signal via Bluetooth connected to an Android app. The app triggers an alarm when the device you’re tracking moves a certain distance away from your Bluetooth enabled smartphone.
Birthday Wish Generator – A Facebook app that will automatically post a birthday wish on your friends wall when it is his/her birthday. It can also post wishes on Facebook at a pre-defined time.
S-Sense – A wearable device (akin to a pair of spectacles) that can be used to monitor the wearer’s health to avoid irregular sleeping patterns during the day time. It operates by analyzing your head movements. The device is paired with an Android app which syncs with your smartphone’s calendar and also detects sleeping and processes that data from the device to avoid instances of irregular sleeping in the future.
Ruby Hunter – A first person shooter (FPS) that makes use of the Unity game engine and Blender Game engine. It revolves around a plot where you are landed on an island and you have to survive by collecting health packs and ammo packs whilst also defending yourself from wild animals and the tribes on the island.
Wi-SMS – An android application that provides a web interface to send and receive SMS’s via mobile phones and also gives access to your contact list, all without the use of internet. The messages are sent from your PC to your smartphone via WiFi and then sent over a GSM network.
Sharing and caring – A website where you can exchange excess or unused educational content and other items such as clothes and electronic items with people who are in need of such items. The website will facilitate both the donation and requests for items. One point noted by the judges was that a person can abuse the system by gathering all the items and then selling them either online or at a local market and gain a profit. It could also turn into a trash ground for collecting items and therefore be in a disarray when it comes to organizing the items.
Smart Reminder – An android app that runs in the background of your smartphone that intelligently listens for keywords such as “submission” along with a corresponding date. When these keywords are detected, the app will automatically ask you if you have a pending assignment submission and generate a reminder.
The last presentation for the day was Train Follower. This is again an Android application that can be used to predict whether a train will be delayed or not. It uses a method of crowd sourcing where the app will scan for users on a given train and then coordinate with those at the station waiting for that same train on its exact time of arrival. Quite a nifty feature for those whose daily method of travel is by Train. It would also save them a lot of time knowing what time the train would dock at the station so that they can plan accordingly.
With that the presentations came to an end and were given a small break to refresh ourselves and prepare for the final awards and closing ceremony.
Waruna Chandimal, previous President of ACES (also notoriously called “Poosa”) was up on stage to give his thoughts and views on the hackathon. His short speech was followed by an Alumni member who also gave his thoughts on the event. He encouraged participants to pick something that they’re comfortable with and also to not narrow themselves down to a web app or an android app or a hardware project, but rather, to explore your possibilities and come up with something new and innovative.
Dr. Suneth Namal, Treasurer of ACES was up next to deliver a speech followed by speeches from representatives from DirectFN | Mubasher.
It was then time for the awards.
- Most Popular Idea – Motify
- Best Idea – S-Sense
- Winner of Network Category – S-Sense
- Winner of Software Development Category – Motify
The most popular idea was judged based on the amount of like each idea had on Facebook, whilst the Best Idea was selected by the panel of Judges.
When all was said and done, Gihan Bandara, Secretary of ACES was on stage to deliver the vote of thanks. He thanked the sponsors, Judiciary panel, mentors and all those attending for their unending support and cooperation. We too felt that it was indeed a job well done by everybody and as we packed up our bags and headed back to Colombo, we couldn’t help wonder what ACES Hackathon 2017 would have in store for us.
Guess we would just have to wait and find out.