Holi(y) HackU – A recap from IIT Kharagpur

After a power-packed Hack U 2010 season, we kickstarted the 2011 season travelling east, to the oldest and largest of the IITs at Kharagpur. This institute, known for its fests like Spring Fest, BitWise, hosted its first HackU from Mar 17th to 20th. We had built the momentum beforehand by running trivia questions titled Fun-10 for a week and it provided enough impetus for the big event.

Thursday, 17th March 2011: Prof. Jayantha Mukohpadhyay inaugurated the event and Chelliah set the ball rolling by making the introductions. Praveen gave the keynote talk on Yahoo!'s vision and talked about the User-Generated Content (UGC) Cloud and some of the challenges. More than 150 students attended the sessions that ran well into the night.

Saurabh started the tech sessions with Hacking for Innovation, where he talked about the spirit of hacking and showcased some examples. Next came Rajesh, to speak about YQL, one of the hot favourites with students. He showcased the power of YQL with demos. After a brief break, we assembled to discuss some of the challenges we face in our day-to-day work, sharing insights into what we do at Yahoo!.

Friday, 18th March 2011: The evening began with a session on YAP by Ravikiran. He showed how to build a YAP app from scratch step by step, with a simple idea. Harsha went on stage next, keeping the students engrossed with short snippets and his talk on YUI. It was followed by my presentation on how to use BOSS for search-related hacks.

IIT Kharagpur HackU Collage

Saturday, 19th March 2011: Hacking officially began at 9AM. BOSS and YQL were the favourite Yahoo! technologies that the students used for hacks. There were quite a few hacks using the social elements of Facebook and Twitter. Some of the hacks used deep science concepts like natural language processing, semantic web, and recommendations based on user interests.

Sunday, 20th March 2011: At the Holi, an all-time favourite festival of India was celebrated, over 70+ of the students were busy hacking till the wee hours of Sunday. The hacking ended at 9AM, and we all took some time off to celebrate the festival of colours.

26 hacks were demoed. The winners are:

  • RailMapia by HackExpress, won for best theme, providing an easy-to-use interface to view trains between any two stations and book tickets.
  • StockNetwork by The Brokers, for building a hack for a real-world scenario of buying and trading stocks with social dynamics.
  • ssh-SMS by dAeMoN-bOyZz, for using ubiquitous technology (Bluetooth, SMS) to solve a real-world scenario.

The following hacks got special mentions:

- HackTheTag, for solving a complex problem with a simple solution using existing technologies
- NotifySS, a useful hack to solve an annoying problem
- Question.Me a learning tool to fetch related questions
- Question Recommendation, for science showing up as a hack that can be integrated into a product

Prof. Niloy Ganguly, summed it up nicely: "It is commendable what
my students have achieved within a short time considering the challenges they had to overcome with a web crawl to fetch some data!
" And Prof. Pabitra Mitra added a funny spin saying, "IIT-KGP giving T-shirts to students could ensure that B.Tech projects are
completed in record time like the Yahoo! hacks.

Check out the photos of the events on Flickr.

A big shout out to Shiven, Prajwal, and alumnus Vikas, and the rest of the tech crew for helping with the hacks and to Chelliah, Roopal, Teenu, Ruchika and Gaurav for the logistics. The event wouldn't have been a success without their help. Also, it would be unfair not to mention the Rôshogolla and Mishti Doi that we devoured and the rock concert that we enjoyed at the venue.