Yahoo! conducted a HackU at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras between September 15th and September 18th. The event was as hotly contested as the Chennai weather. Before we get to the meat of it, here are a few highlights:
- For the first time, we had two colleges competing for prizes. We had invited 30 students from the College of Engineering, Guindy to take part in the event along with the IIT Madras students. Thanks to IIT-Madras for allowing us to invite CEG and thanks to CEG for responding quickly to our invite.
- We had 30+ demos out of about 40 registered hacks, which is a record conversion rate for HackU.
- Almost all of the demos were complete and functional with hackers joyously showing off stuff that worked.
The IIT-Madras HackU got off to a perfect start with a healthy and
traditional lunch at
(thanks to Sudar for the recommendation).
The proceedings started off at 5 PM with a quick inauguration from
Prof. Krishnamoorthy of the
CSE department. Prof. Ravindran
who had been helping us in organizing HackU at IIT-Madras was also present.
Ramkumar Narayanan (Yahoo! VP of Product, Emerging Markets and Small Business)
delivered an impressive, topical and India specific keynote to kick-off
proceedings. Indeed, one of the hacks was inspired by his keynote.
I followed Ram with an
introduction to hacking session. We then had a trivia session asking students to identify programming language creators from their photographs and share their previous HackU experiences. Sudar followed with an introduction to web programming. We ended the day discussing some of the challenges that Yahoo! faces and demonstrated some hacks that got launched as products.
Day 2 started off with some more hack brain-storming where the tech crew
got students to come out with their hack ideas and gave them feedback on
how to get those ideas implemented in 24 hours.
Durga did a quick YUI primer to let people know how easy is it to whip up a good UI. Sudar followed it up with a detailed web programming primer wiring up PHP and
some of the technologies that we talked about.
The turn-out for all the talks was very encouraging and the tech-crew
got a lot of queries on very, very interesting ideas.
Hacking officially started at 9 AM. Excellent lab facilities and good connectivity ensured that we got the perfect start we wanted. Teams started trickling in and hacking. 4 teams from
College of Engineering, Guindy trooped in and
started hacking along with the IIT-Madras students.
A wide variety of hacks were on display - mobile hacks, image processing
hacks, machine learning hacks, hacks to solve one's itch, etc. As
the day wore on, the tech crew could sense we were in for a quality hack
HackUs in India are characterized by round the clock hacking by all participants and this event was no different. We literally had to the pull the students from the lab into the auditorium for the presentations on Sunday afternoon. As mentioned earlier, the most heartening fact was the completeness with which most of the hacks were demo-ed.
The hacks were judged by Prof. Shankar, Prof. Ashish Tendulkar, Unni Arvindakshan (Senior Director at Yahoo!) and the crew. After some
hectic and heated discussions, the following hacks were adjudged as winning entries:
- Auto Evalo - Category: Local relevance, Crowd sourcing
- Siddarth S, Sailesh Mukil of CEG - an app that helps people know the price point to start bargaining when boarding an auto in Chennai using crowd-sourced data.
- Tweets of Interest - Category: Science
- Deepak V, Kunal Mulay, KVS Dileep, Debraun Kar - IIT Madras. Deliver smart digests of tweets interesting to you over email based on your preferences.
- Code Collab - Category: Dev Tools
- Pavan Kumar, Siddhartha Garimella, Venkata Nihar S - IIT Madras. A professional implementation of a real-time browser based code collaboration tool.
- Yahoo Just Dial - Category: Social cause and relevance to India
- Pankaj Kumar and Janardhan Reddy - IIT Madras. A voice based just-dial like service to cater to illiterate people to find information about services around them.
- Super Input - Category: Coolest Hack
- Rajkumar T, Manibharathi R.P, Sakthi Gurunathan of CEG. This hack lets you play games on your computer using your Android smart phone with accelerometer support.
A special mention was made about a hack called Pik-chat by Achint
Setia, Madhur Amilkanthwar, Niharjyothi Sarangi of IIT. It had the crowd in splits when they manipulated a person's face to reflect his/her feelings based on the chat messages he/she receives.
In the end it was a very, very satisfying HackU for all of us. All the photos of the event are available on flickr.
IIT-Madras was an excellent HackU host. Superb facilities and good support from faculty and students made this HackU memorable. We thank Professor Ranjani Parthasarathi of the Department of Information Science and Technology of Anna University for helping CEG students participate
in this event at a short notice. It was a wonderful gesture by the IIT-M students to invite us for the Onam celebrations in the hostel and serve us a sumptuous Onam meal.
A big shout-out to the crew comprising of Chelliah (father of HackU in
India), Uday Shankar, Sudar, Amit Kumar,
Aswin, Prajwal, Jayasuriyan, Durga and
Sumana who helped students all along to complete their hacks. Thanks to
Roopal, Vikram and Sagar (logistics) for all the support and schwag.
The IIT-Madras HackU has just raised the bar for HackUs in India. IIT-Delhi is the next stop.