Laddoos, Peacocks and Hacks from Kanpur

IIT Kanpur, the first institute in India to start Computer Science education, hosted its first Hack U from Aug 18-21, 2011. Our daily trivia Fun-10, now a regular at HackU, provided a thrust to the event. The initial registrations crossed 350 even before we reached the campus. We landed at Kanpur on a hot and humid afternoon to be welcomed by peacocks on the tarmac. This defense airport has one of the smallest terminal buildings that I have seen.

Thursday, 18th August 2011: The event was inaugurated by Prof.Harish Karnick with an inspiring speech on innovation and the value add that events like HackU bring to the campus. This was followed by Nishad's keynote on trends in internet technologies and computing.

Hack U - IITK - 19  Aug  (60)

I started off the tech sessions with an introduction to Hack U, setting the tone for the upcoming sessions. Arnab demonstrated the power of YQL next showing examples of real world use cases.

Later in the evening we spent over an hour discussing some of the real world issues that the students were interested in solving. This interactive session resulted in opening up the conversation with students and got them to think about solutions to problems that mattered the most to them.

Friday, 19th August 2011: We spent the afternoon discussing some of the technologies each of us were working on including the art of science and scale to a group of PhD students from the department of computer science.

Praveen started the evening sessions with a talk on BOSS. He also kept the audience engaged with his quizzing skills. Pradip gave an overview and the features of YUI followed by Sudar's overview on Yahoo! Application Platform.

We also provided a quick primer on Javascript and PHP to the students and Pradeep showed how to build a hack using the standard tool-set in a matter of minutes. After the talks, students spent considerable time discussing their ideas with the crew late into the night.

Saturday, 20th August 2011: The hacking began at 9AM. Through out the day and the night, we were interacting with the students, looking at the ideas being discussed, debated and taking shape into hacks.

Sunday, 21st August 2011: Though the hacking ended at 9AM, the students were still busy polishing their hacks, working on their elevator pitch and rehearsing their presentations.

Hack U - IITK - 21 Aug (228)

The demos began at 2pm. Subhajit Roy, now a faculty member at IIT-K and a ex-HackU winner from IISc and Amay Karkare joined us for judging the hacks. It took us almost an hour to deliberate and pick the winners from the 22 demos, and this goes on to show the quality of hacks.

The winners are:

  • Music Recommendations, for tremendous value addition to an existing Yahoo! product
  • ARQ, for addressing the pressing needs of Indian Railway users
  • SLAC. for building a cool and fun conversation starter with friends
  • Health Hack, the hack for common good that can be implemented for the college campus

Just Gesture was the tech crew's favorite hack. IQ Challenge got a special mention. The highlight of the event was the hack by a first year graduate, barely a quarter into the college, titled Essential info about IITK, a hack to gather and provide reminders about college events.

Apart from providing the opportunity for the tech-crew to interact with students and relive the college life, HackU also provides opportunity for the crew to visit local places and relish local cuisine. Case in point was the visit to a place called Bittur, where river Ganges was in full flow and the yummy ladoos and kulfi at 'Thaggu Ke Laddoo'. And if you ever visit IIT Kanpur, don't miss out on the canteen food at Hall-4.

Check out the pictures from the event. Until the next Hack U, signing off.