About the hackathon
Following up on one of my earlier articles on the benefits of participating in hackathons, I wanted to share my experience participating in yet another hackathon.
This time I participated in Hack For Peace — Cross-European Hackathon (21-23 October 2022). During this event, developers, entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors from across the UK, Sweden, Portugal, Poland, and Ukraine came together to build innovative products and tech solutions to solve war issues and promote peace across Europe.
My team became semi-finalists in this hackathon and got to give a speech in the finals. There were four stages that we went through during this event:
Building a team and defining roles
I invited a few people that I knew before this hackathon to join my team: my colleague from Beamery Dmitry and my mentee Karim (I mentor IT professionals through Meet a Mentor platform). I met the remaining members of my team, Hannah and Amrutta, through the Slack workspace of this event.
I became a team leader since I organized this team and have a lot of experience leading software teams. Dmitry and Hannah joined as Software Engineers. Amrutta was our graphic designer and Karim was a UI/UX designer. In the end, we had a pretty strong team with a wide range of skills and were ready to kick off the three days of hackathon.
Brainstorming and defining Idea
Hackathon had four work streams:
- Information security - Info hygiene, media war, cybersecurity.
- Mental health - Self-support, matching with therapists, group therapy.
- Kids’ education - Pre-school and school education.
- Logistics - Humanitarian aid delivery, evacuation of people, and the hazard of human trafficking.
Prior to the event, I was thinking of building something related to kids' education. However, after team discussions on the first day of the hackathon, we decided to pivot and create an app related to info hygiene/media war. We had two ideas: a news fact checker and a bot detection tool.
By the end of the first day, we agreed to focus on a bot detection tool. The final vision was to build a Chrome extension that would blur/unblur posts from bots and show match scores. We decided to start with a Twitter integration for our MVP version.
Research and Developing a prototype
After defining our idea and having minimal requirements on the first day of the event, the next day, we started building a working prototype that we could demo for the jury.
Hannah and I started researching existing tools that can detect bots on Twitter and found Botomenr API, which was perfect for our prototype. We developed a Node.js service with one endpoint, which receives an array of user names, pulls data from Twitter API and then passes this data to Botomenr API to detect potential bots and return a match score.
Meanwhile, Dmitry was working on the implementation of the frontend part. Amrita and Karim were working on the design of the app logo and creating wireframes for the demo.
By the end of the day, we had a prototype: BotsBoo chrome extension that can detect bots on Twitter
Presentations and demo
On the last day of the hackathon we had to record a 3 minute presentation and demo of our app. The entire team was involved in preparing and reviewing the presentation slides. Karim and I recorded a video and uploaded it for jury review.
After a selection process, we became semi-finalists and entered the finals with 12 other teams (out of 22 teams that took part).
It was exciting to see how many great projects were built during the hackathon. My favorite project was "BeesAgainstMines".
On the evening of the last day, we made a live speech in the final and a Q&A session from the jury.
These three days were intense, but I enjoyed the experience so much! Yet again, I saw that a hackathon is a great opportunity to improve my leadership and public speaking skills and of course sharpen my technical skills. I also met a lot of new people in the industry and made friends with my teammates. These are the connections that I cherish so much as an immigrant in London.
No matter where you are in your journey in tech, taking part in a hackathon is a great way to take your career and skills to the next level and have a great time while doing it.