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Organizing Compress Project - Hackathon

Hello everyone,

Recently, I got a chance to be the leader in organizing a SQL hackathon for 26 teams and more than 100+ participants. The reason to write this blog is to share a few innovative ideas that I discovered during this hackathon. And I hope this can be useful to future organizers too.

Let’s first understand a bit about “Hackathon” …….

What is Hackathon?

Initially, the word Hackathon comes from the word Marathon (a long or difficult activity in a short period) and Hack, here meant as exploratory programming.

During a Hackathon, you spend a short period of time building, creating, and delivering solutions for a given task. The idea is to collaboratively code in an extreme manner, to start from scratch, and end with a goal achieved with teamwork.

What is the structure of a Hackathon?

This hackathon was purely based on SQL only. SQL stands for Structured Query Language which is used to communicate with a database. We have used PostgreSQL with one of the healthcare dataset (Hospital data) for this hackathon.

It usually all starts with a Launch of the hackathon with guidelines like the kick-start date of the hackathon, team capacity, query documentation, submission date/time/file format, evaluation guidelines, etc.

This Hackathon went up for a week. So of course, for shorter Hackathons, there is more pressure. Adding to that competition, you can quickly remember the exam periods at university. Work, work, work, drink coffee, have a quick bite, sleep very few hours, work more. At least that’s what my exams period looked like!

After the work is done, now it's time to present their work to the whole organization. In this case, the organizing team has to look at the presentation and all the queries submitted, and they will be in charge of choosing a winning team.

Still not 100% convinced that you should participate in a Hackathon? Well, wait till you read about the benefits.

What are the benefits of Hackathon?

  • Kickstart careers

  • Meet new people

  • Inspire teamwork

  • Add value to your CV

  • Encourage diversity & affect positive change

  • Innovation

  • Personal satisfaction

Efforts of the organizing team

Let’s begin with the efforts that the organizing team including me has to put in, to run this hackathon. I have listed out all the efforts and divided them among the organizing team to work on.

  • Database Creation with ERD (Entity relationship diagram) and required installation documents.

  • Prepared 150+ unique questions including a new set of expected output. Generated queries for all questions with optimization concept.

  • Introduced Trello board and guided the SMPO (Scrum Master Product Owner) members.

  • Addressing Participant’s doubts through slack and setting up zoom calls with the participants as required.

  • Total 2800+ Queries evaluated including extra queries attempted by each team.

  • The evaluation took 6 days including the final presentation in which we put in a minimum of 14 hours a day for completing the evaluation. Zoom call was kept open in order to work throughout the day.

Innovation in Challenges

We always ask participants to innovate. However, innovation does not always mean the invention of something new. It can involve translation from another setting, of existing flow, or systematization of some existing good practices.

When existing evaluation tools, processes, methods, and systems are not enough to meet current challenges, you need to draw on innovations in evaluation.

Our organizing team had only 6 members. Think for a moment that 100+ participants, 2800+complex queries to check with the most optimized ones, and a number of new functions used in each query to markdown within 5 days. In these challenging days, I created one simple Evaluation sheet which made our evaluation easy and feasible.

Evaluation Criteria

We have taken the following criteria for the evaluation of the hackathon.

  • Completion of all given queries

  • Generation of correct output

  • Query Optimization

  • New Functions

  • Extra queries apart from the given ones

  • Trello board (Agile methodology)

  • Documentation & Presentation

We have used relational marking for each criterion to make it fair for all participating teams. This evaluation sheet has all formulas set for required rows and columns.

Here is a glimpse of my creation of a simple evaluation sheet…

Finally, with the help of the evaluation sheet, we have all team's performance results in our hands and it’s time to present. I have created an interactive dashboard in Tableau using action filter parameters that contain,

  • Team number series: selecting a team number will display everything about that particular team with their team's name.

  • Horizontal bar Chart: it gives a count of each criterion for the selected team.

  • Donut charts: It displays points for each criterion score by the selected team.

Out of 1000 points, the total point score by each team will decide their position in the hackathon.

Organizing a hackathon isn’t an easy feat, but the efforts you put into arranging and hosting the event will be worth it when you see how the event turns out. I hope the above ideas and resources are useful for you as you approach the different Hackathon Challenges. Please feel free to reach out to me with any further questions.

Let’s share if you come across any resources that would be helpful for other organizers while doing this challenging work. Let’s build knowledge about how to do evaluations better together.

Thanks to the organizing team and all the participants who trusted us and made this journey memorable.

Special thanks to my backbone organizers @Durgalakshmi Penugonda and

@V Ramasita for being there day and night with me.

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