Last weekend (from Friday 29th Oct to Tuesday 2nd Nov), was the #BuildWithAI Hackathon 2021 where participants, mentors, sponsors and organisers gathered together to solve real world challenges with AI. This event does not standalone. In a world full of change, this (from my perspective) started last year in the #BuildWithAI Hackathon 2020 and continued to build.
This article is about the event but the event itself is just “Another Step”.
As I mentioned, this for me was not my first #BuildWithAI hackathon. Also, it wasn’t my first hackathon either. On one of the mentor calls, one person mentioned it was their 60th hackathon. On the other hand, there were plenty of people from various backgrounds that introduced themselves into the massive slack workspace as “this was my first hackathon.”. Several of the Oracle mentors that joined in over this period also said it was their first as well.
As people came in, the first impressions were critical to provide that sense of community, safety and being open. This experience started with the Slack workspace. Over 3,500 people (eventually) were registered in the one space. How do you find anyway or anyone? It was a sea of people, messages and posts. As one that wants to build sustainable communities and connections, it was natural to greet people, ask about their goals and objectives and ask about their “why”. It was very good this time, as the slack workspace was available to participants a couple of weeks in advance. The ability to meet each other and form teams before the massive rush on Friday night was a welcomed relief. I could see teams on the weekend have that connection and bond. And in this style of execution, the formation of the team (in diverse skills, collaboration and organisation) is a critical success factor for getting to the end.
As people came in, we were there too. Having done this a few times before, setting up channels and getting the infrastructure setup (Oracle Cloud Promotions, mentors, workshops, information packs) was part of the process. Like most things – do your homework; prepare what you can but also throw a couple of experiments in there too. Sydney Nurse (from Oracle based in Switzerland) was part of the team for the previous #WorldInnovationDay Hackathon in April 2021 (you can check it out here) and what he did was think about “How might we support others by connecting them to information that is not easily accessible in such a rapidly challenging environment?” What Sydney built was this integrated Slack Bot using Oracle Digital Assistant and Oracle APEX to help guide and find people. We didn’t promote this to the whole event. We soft launched it to see where it would be used.
This was a rapid learning experience and full of uncertainty – who can I form team’s with; what is the challenge statements; what skills can I bring to the table; what do we deliver; what do we design and develop. So much uncertainty. However, we found through this uncertainty many people did find their feet. The one thing that I do find during this time is the simple nature of how we communicate with each others (remembering that some of us have been thrown into this space not that long ago). It is interesting to understand how we treat each other; how we speak and respond to each other; how we respect the opinion and circumstances (especially from a timezone perspective). This in itself is a learning experience around teams; virtual teams; the respecting the time and space that people still need to be people amongst their other parts of their lives. This last point was very evident when considering the event did flow into the “traditional” working week how teams were able to plan and organise their time over those days.
The opening ceremony on the Friday was something that felt like a “campfire” where we all sat around watching the keynotes and then learnt about the challenge statements.
From the Oracle Cloud and technology perspective, I think over these few hackathons that we have contributed to – there seemed to be a convergence of entry points that people had and based upon our experiences we were gearing towards that. A few of these were:
Some people were focused on using a ML environment to analyse, train, deploy their models. This actually went down a couple of different paths. One path was to start with a Oracle Data Science Cloud environment. We were able to provide a select few teams with GPU as well to run in their Oracle Data Science Cloud environment (which was another benefit of starting early). Teams were already familiar with their notebook environments and configuring that up. The other path was to start building their models locally on their laptops and with flask deploy the model as an API on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Compute.
Some teams were more the business and analytics focused. There were plenty of people with data visualisation backgrounds wanting to mash datasets, create dataframes and then visualise. These teams were drawn to Oracle Analytics Cloud where teams were able to upload datasets, transform data or train models in the data flows and visualise the data in the projects. The range of visualisation used to explain the story was vast including the in-built forecasting and trending to make predictions.
Some teams wanted a rapid user interface to build their applications. There were frontend and full stack developers at the event but some teams wanted to learn for themselves with Oracle APEX being the tool of choice to create, build in this low-code environment.
We knew from experience that these areas were common. So, we created these short videos to be very specific to getting started with these services. Brilliant work by Daniel Tan, Anthony Ong, Jimmy Tan and Charles Yap for spending the time putting these together.
And the community itself has been growing. The number of people that I have met, and continue to meet has been fantastic. The number of community partners have exploded.
And I want to say #ThankYou to all of the mentors, lead mentors and regional ambassadors that helped promote, expand and support this event. Many of these people were also mentors and team leads throughout the weekend as well.
The teams have submitted their solutions for judging. There are plenty of them across the different challenges statements. Now is the time to wait for the outcomes. That being said, there’s been plenty of follow-ups (and I’ll do a #TeamTribute when the time arrives). And many people eager to continue to learn. Here’s some of the things that I’ve been mentioning.
- Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Certifications – There’s free certifications (up to Dec 31 2021) available (here). The learning material is always free.
- Recently, we released Oracle Cloud courses on Coursera as well (here).
- Oracle Live Labs (here) has been a growing set of workshops and tutorials that participants / mentors can use the Oracle Cloud Promotion that they received at the event.
We continue to support those in the community to build and grow in whatever way they need to. And with #BuildWithAI which is similar to the Oracle mission statement, it’s another step to learn and explore.
#CommunityMatters #ItTakesAVillage #ReshapeTheFuture