GIBT Hackathon 2019, November 2nd & 3rd – My experience
“It’s not how good you’re, it’s how good you want to be” – Paul Arden
We all want to learn from experts, but there’s a lot to be gleaned from beginners.
Why? Because beginners are rarely complacent. We go about our days actively seeking news skills. We experiment. We’re always listening, information rushing to our heads like air racing through our lungs after a long run.
Breaking into the workforce seeking to be a data scientist, my first Hackathon, organized by The German Institute of Business and Technology (GIBT), getINNOtized, and Microsoft for Africa was a priceless experience.
P.S: For those who do not know, a ‘Hackathon’ is a social event, sometimes a competition, where computer programmers and others related software development personnel like project managers, collaborate in software projects as solutions to given problems.
The reporting time to the venue, Kokrobite Institute, was 8 a.m. On my way, I met a few of the participants along with 2 of my teammates, waiting to be taken to their rooms. I introduced myself and we interacted while waiting. Prior to that, however, we had met at the getINNOtized office at North Legon where we were grouped into teams — 3 or 4 members to a team — to each present unique solutions to the problems assigned to us.
Eventually, we were directed to the reception where we checked in and finally entered our lovely laid-out rooms. After unpacking, we headed out for breakfast. Among all the breakfast options, we were served lemongrass tea with doughnuts, banana, and peanuts! It was my first time taking lemongrass tea, yet, oddly I enjoyed it. The atmosphere was friendly as a few cracked jokes about the food while others joined us around the eatery.
From there, we made our way to the conference hall, where various participants chose sitting positions for the rest of the event. We settled down and an introduction, as well as the program outline, was shared by Benjamin Schunke, COO of GIBT. A couple of German guests were also introduced and soon after, the Hackathon kicked off.
Each team was assigned an industry expert on the topic they were working on. Fredrick Krahforst walked up to our table and asked about our topic. Upon hearing it was about Artificial Intelligence (AI), he made himself comfortable at our table. We shared our topic with Fred and so much progress was made. It was quite a tumultuous process trying to come up with problem a statement, yet we managed to breakthrough.
There was a presentation by Lutz, one of our guests on Talent Development. He shared with us the fascinating concept of the invention of books, how books have come to aid us in knowing so much about today’s world, and other resources such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that contribute to talent development. My take-home points from his talk were to cultivate the attitude of ferocious reading and to seek to improve one’s talent as the clock ticks.
Lunch & Games
At noon, we took a break for lunch. We were served fried rice with chicken, among other sides. Everyone seemed to love it and ate while socializing. An interesting game was introduced after we had finished eating. I can’t remember the name but I certainly hadn’t played it before.
For this game, there was one basket filled with small-sized coconuts — as small as baby fists — placed within two truncated plastic bottle bottoms. The rule of the game was simple — for it to touch every hand before entering a basket placed at another end. The bottles also had to be thrown, not passed around. Plus, one had to make sure the coconuts do not fall out of the barely sealed bottles containing them.
We all formed two parallel files and tried to throw the bottles to each other, per the rules. You could imagine how the first trial went! It ended in mockery and laughter, so we gave it another shot. This time was better, yet surprisingly, only one container made it to the basket after we had passed so many down the line. With determination, we gave it another shot and finally ended up with 24 containers in the basket!
How did we do it? One word — Teamwork.
After the game, we returned to the conference hall feeling rejuvenated. The spirit was just right to continue with our various projects. An hour through the teamwork session, Fred and Eva presented on Data Science and Artificial Intelligence. Relating Data Science to the real world, Fred left us with the quote;
“Ideas are easy, implementation is hard” – Guy Kawasaki
Eva continued to pique our interest, presenting on her journey as a data scientist so far. She spoke on business understanding >> data retrieval >>data understanding >> model building >> testing & piloting >> model evaluation then finally concluded with Integration/ Optimization >Roll Out.
The teamwork session followed, led by Fred once more.
This included one dubbed “The World Café” session — where feedback was shared on each project. During this session, one person from each team was named master and their duty was to stay behind while other teammates left. The master was then joined by two neutral people, to whom the master would pitch their project. Each pitch lasted 90 seconds and feedback was returned by listeners within 6 minutes.
For dinner, we sat around the dinner table chatting and had some Bisap served beforehand. Spaghetti Bolognese was on the menu, and that followed with a fun reggae night, where we got to listen to some good music.
My team agreed to meet at 5 a.m. the next morning.
The saying, “diamonds are made under pressure”, was literally what we experienced on Sunday. We had to come up with a problem statement, started with our prototype, collected data online and put together diagrams. Within four hours, we had been able to come up with a solution to our problem statement. However, we had to pause our work at 9 a.m. to have breakfast. From there, we proceeded to the conference hall, where we had about 2 hours to prepare before our presentation and prototype submission.
Project Presentations & Awarding
Fast forward to the final hour, our team was selected as the second to present. I was relieved — as it was my first time presenting anything — I needed to see how it would be done.
So the first team presented; the judges and other team members could ask questions. Oh, and the judges were, Lutz Ziop, Prince Oduro, Stephan Werhahn and Akorfa-Bart Plange. Soon, it was our turn to present and thankfully, it went very well. Eventually, every team had their turn and then the judges went in privately to decide on the results.
“We all have the ability to envision and create”
The last supper was a delicious platter of jollof rice, fried plantain slices with cassava-fish wrapped in a leaf. A refreshing round of freshly plucked coconuts was also distributed. At the end of the meal, dessert came in mouth-watering plates of watermelon, cakes and banana shake. Honestly, the food for the entire Hackathon was magical.
All too soon, the winning ceremony began. It was held on the lawn right in front of the eatery. We gathered around to watch Lutz and Kwame give the awards. Starting from the third position, we saw the Job for starters team get rewarded, followed by the Urbanization team, and finally to the winners, the Education team.
Sadly, my team — the Artificial Intelligence team— did not come up as top three but we were still proud of our efforts. Moments were captured, goodbyes were said and gradually, the program came to an end.
The GIBT Hackathon, to me, was a priceless experience and I would do it all over again if I had the chance.