#BuildWithAI – A Hackathon Experience

On August 17th, we’ll be announcing winners of the #BuildWithAI hackathon and it will be live-streamed on youtube – https://youtu.be/URuB0FtBIJo (note – set your reminder). Cassie Kozyrkov (Chief Decision Scientist, Google), Steve Nouri (Board Member, Hackmakers), Cherie Ryan (Regional MD of ANZ and VP, Oracle) as well as an all-star judging line-up will be there.

Before we get to that, lets rewind, fast-forward and bring together some of the interesting points of the #BuildWithAI hackathon – an event that was truly global in its nature hosted by Hackmakers (https://hackmakers.com/).

July 24th 11:45am AEST – I received a calendar alert for the Leader Mentor Zoom session for the #BuildWithAI hackathon. Trying to finish as many of the things that I needed to get done before I joined this call. This will be interesting. Watching the number of competitors join the event’s slack workspace climbing from a hundred users when I first joined, to now over 3,500 users in the #introductions channel, it was an unique experience. I’m thinking about lots of different things from past hackathons that I’ve participated, mentored, sponsored, hosted – how will this one be any different. I’ll just have to wait and see. And better yet, give to the community and the competitors as much as I can in the time we have.

This moment was not the beginning nor the end of this experience. It was somewhere in between. I’ll give you some background.

#BuildWithAI hackathon was a global event in one space. I’ve participated in global event before with Techstars Startup Weekend and TADHack but these other ones were regionally hosted and executed. This was in one space with one global team. There was definitely feelings of how will I find people here (and I think that I was not alone in that thought – no pun intended).

This event was tech-focused, data science-focused, AI-focused, ML-focused and developer-focused. The number of developers, certifications or masters, specialists in computer vision, NLP, different AI models, different languages, packages, frameworks was astounding. And as such, there was something for everyone in the three main challenges for teams to align to:

From hackmakers (https://hackmakers.com)

We sponsored the Visualisation Challenge and it was a natural choice – where our mission statement is: “… see data differently, discover insights and unlock endless possibilities …


We kicked off our involvement with an introduction session on the Wednesday before the hackathon. Kuan Yi “KY” Lim and I led the session talking about some of the tech that could be used over the weekend. We focused on what tech could you use to Get Stuff Done (#GSD) quickly which included Oracle Data Science Cloud, Oracle APEX (Application Express) and Oracle Analytics Cloud.

July 24th 7:30pm AEST – And the hackathon kicked off. With Janson Lim and Steve Nouri from Hackmakers, hosted the opening of the event bringing us together and centred.

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As part of the opening, we had Franco Ucci – Senior Director of Cloud Strategy from Oracle providing his welcome message to everyone.

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Once the keynotes were over, it was a scurry of activity. Even the hours before the official opening of the event, the slack workspace and channels were very active. Lots of introductions and people looking for teams. Lots of solutions or ideas being brought forward. Popup sessions on hangout, zoom, slack video calls were spawned.

As part of the event, we had our Oracle Cloud on offer for free that could be used over the weekend. And a team of engineers to help out in getting access to kit. There was flurry of activity as people registered and gain access to get started. This was an experience. And to be honest, not many of the people that we interacted with knew anything about Oracle Cloud. So, getting people started and effective very quickly was the aim. And many did become effective very quickly.

It’s important to be in the right frame of mind. It can be a minefield going into these events without a plan. Also, this was an event full of discovery and hence its good to tackle these with a plan. As such, I did this pop-up session to bring together some of my experiences in tackling a hackathon. I refer to much of the content and learning from a friend Peter Laurie (https://www.linkedin.com/in/pjlaurie) who has done similar session at many hackathons before me.

I also had the opportunity to sit down with Franco Ucci to talk through some of the ways that you can quickly build data-driven apps. Franco’s tool of choice for this was Oracle APEX and in this short clip goes into how this can be done in a few minutes.

This is so important … WHY??? … because of this …

(from https://www.quotemaster.org/)

The least productive thing during these events is setting up backend infrastructure or toolkits to get started. The time should be thinking about the problem and then once you have that, work on the solution. Hence, some of the things that we were able to give to teams was time – time to focus on the problem and the solution and less about the tech itself.

A common task that people needed to do was searching for data to support the problem that they were looking to focus on. This is a challenge unto itself, “How good do we do as an industry in provide good quality data to be used?” Here’s a few datasets that people collated during the event.

Throughout the weekend, it felt like a continuum. Here’s why.

0600 AEST – GMT was early evening and PST was in their prime midday.
0900 AEST – GMT was late night and PST was in their evening.
1200 AEST – GMT was early morning, PST was in their late evening.
1500 AEST – GMT was almost up, PST was late evening.
1800 AEST – GMT was up, PST was working through the night.
2200 AEST – GMT was prime, PST was the early hours of their morning.
0200 AEST – GMT was in their afternoon, PST is getting up.

There were teams that spanned several timezones. One team that I knew of consisted of people from Switzerland, India and Australia that had mentors from South Africa and Australia. There was no specific stop / start / shutdown here and gave me an appreciation of working across these timezones – especially with AEST, IST, GMT, BST, PST.

As the hours went by, the different questions that were posed changed which was interesting. It was a good sense check to how people and teams progressed through the hackathon itself.

On Day 1 – How do I get access to Oracle Cloud? What can I do with Oracle Cloud? Can I stand up an Windows server? Can I deploy a microservice? Can you help us get some data? Can you help us get started?
On Day 2 – I have a CSV that I want to chart, how do I do that? Can you show me some forecasting in Oracle Analytics Cloud (and we don’t have much time)? Do you know of an easy to use video maker program? Can you help me practice my pitch?

Normally, a hackathon would finish on a Sunday afternoon with pitching. This was different. It started Friday night AEST and finished Sunday night PST. For us, it was truly a 3 day (72 hour) event.

July 27th 10:59pm AEST – Tools DOWN. The submissions were in. You see in a few of these types of competition shows. The amount of effort that people put in. People do push themselves harder to go further. The exhaustion, relief and a moment in time where what is done, is done. Normally hi-fives happen across the room congratulating everyone for getting to this point. And it is an achievement unto itself. It is a milestone to be congratulated. But that is not the end there is more to come.

Since that time, there’s been a team (or army) of judges reviewing the submissions to select winners. There are prizes on offer for the three challenges as well as for the global showcase competition. On August 17th, announcing winners of the #BuildWithAI hackathon and it will be live-streamed on youtube – https://youtu.be/URuB0FtBIJo.

Here are a couple of the teams that I was able to get across.

There are plenty more projects and videos available on the hackmakers facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/buildwithaihack

As I’ve mentioned in status updates as well as other articles – the prize is nice however it is a short-term gain. What I see as important is the individual or team goals and execution after the event. Reaching out to a mentor. Refining the project. Setting up a business. Look what other events or programs to apply for. It’s what you do after this experience and opportunity that matters.

On a personal level, I’m very proud of the Oracle team that contributed to this event.

  • Lyn Ward – Being the advocate’s voice for developers.
  • Tom Jurcic – Being passionate about tech and throwing himself into situations to help.
  • Jason Grogan – Being there and present when others weren’t (especially in the middle of the night) and getting people up to speed on the tech.
  • Aaron Hoile – Being there all the time. We didn’t cross paths as much during the weekend however being there when people need him was paramount.
  • Kuan Yi “KY” Lim – Being the master demo’er on the tech that people wanted to see. I think that KY did demo’s of Oracle Analytics Cloud a large number of times over the weekend.
  • Darren Seng Fook Loong – Being another one of the team that always gave during the event and helped teams to where they needed to go.
  • Franc Ucci – Being himself and sharing his knowledge the best he knows how – with a smile and a sense of fun.

And a massive shout-out to the organisers Hackmakers (https://hackmakers.com), the mentors across the world (over 200 of them) and also to the other sponsors. This event exceeded expectations and IMHO it validated the concept – “what you get out of the event is based upon what you put in and multiplied”. We did that and we are proud that we were able to contribute.

#ThankYou #CommunityMatters #ItTakesAVillage


Author: Jason Lowe

I am passionate about how organisations adopt IT quickly and sustainably to achieve a specific and measurable outcome. This thinking is supported through lean IT practices in operational support and project delivery, and adopting these practices with Oracle technologies by creating sustainable platforms. I'm also interested different perspectives and drivers - from enterprise to start-ups, academia to commercial to public sector, cost-sensitive (risk) to value-driven (reward) - all of which influences decisions that organisations make. I have a passion for community and have been called "a connector" - meeting new people that are trying to solve valuable and hard problems and connecting them with others that can validate and help realise their full potential. I've supported different organisations like TADHack and Hacking Health as a global organiser. I'm is a persistent blogger on medium.com and redthunder.blog and on LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/lowe-jason #CommunityMatters #ItTakesAVillage

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