Under the name of Hack[IoT]on, VUB and Sensing & Control organized the 32-hour event for developers and students on June 30th and July 1st.
Hackathon is also known as code fest. It is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborated intensively on software projects.
Some of the motivations that lead us to organize this event were:
- Create usable software related to IoT (internet of things)
- Engage VUB into this kind of events.
- Transfer knowledge from S&C to VUB.
- Connect students with companies.
- Connect students with students.
- Connect students with other software engineers that would want to attend the hackathon.
The idea of the Hackathon was to create something new, but open to the developers/students. To give them the topic and the freedom to create what they want. All the projects developed must be uploaded online and the code open-sourced using GitHub (https://github.com/)
The main topic had to be related to the seminar, i.e. to the Internet of things (energy, sensors, etc). The possible ideas that were presented to the developers were:
- Connect arduino boards to smartphones
- Analyse data from energy APIs (smappee)
- Energy calculator
- Energy efficiency game
- Share sensors information
- Connect smartwatches with APIs
- Manage VUB Greenhouse (sensing, control)
- Data mashups (VUB Greenhouse & weather info)
- Create a new rule engine for sensors (IFTTT)
Sponsors are an important part of the hackathon ecosystem. They provide the technical speakers, the APIs for the developers, the venue, the food, the prizes, etc. Sensing & Control created an internal document that was sent to possible sponsors and circulated a powerpoint presentation to attract sponsors. Finally, two external sponsors contributed to the hackathon.
Organization & Prizes
Organization and the pre-event work are also important. Here are the major points we covered:
- Pick a theme.
- Leave ample time to plan.
- Lock down a venue
- Secure sponsorships.
- Rally the interested parties.
- Market to potential attendees
- (Slightly) over-order on food.
- Make sure there’s cool stuff to give away.
- Remember that regardless of how much you prepare, something may – and probably will – go wrong. (Internet connection, not enough power outlets, projector breaks during demos…)
After all the details and organization we started on June 30th the first Hack[IoT]on in the Mandela Building at the VUB. In total 25 students participated, of which a third were female. Apart from the hacking sessions, there were presentations made by the sponsors and technical people. Sensing & Control presented their API to consume data from the VUB Greenhouse directly from their commercial platform.
We used the Hacker League platform where we created the page for the event: https://www.hackerleague.org/hackathons/hackiothon/hacks
This platform was used to have an estimation of the developers that were coming to the event (free registration process) and a medium to communicate with the developers and collect information about the projects.
The prizes for the hackathon were:
- Cool T-shirt (for everyone attending)
- Smappee monitor
- Arduino starter kit
- Nokia lumia 520
- 100€ Cash
- Raspberry Pi
The judging criteria to earn those prizes were clearly defined:
- Main topics to evaluate (Max 30 points):
- Quality, functionality, real-life use case 0-10 points
- Aesthetic design and creativity 0-10 points
- Uniqueness, novelty value and innovativeness 0-10 points
- Participants votation (35%)
- Judges votation (65%)
Before the 24-hour coding session some advices were given during the initial presentation to be successful and to enjoy better the hackathon. The developers receive some insights to think about:
- What to Write
- How to Code It
- You Can’t Do It All
- Plan out the flow of your app.
- Plan out your roles
- Cut things out quickly.
- Keep a narrow scope.
- Figure out the most important aspects of your app, and do them first.
- Have the presentation planned ahead of time, and decide who is going to do it.
Some Internet of Things related devices like Raspberrys, smartphones, smartwatches, Arduino boards, sensors, IP cameras, Galileo boards… were given to the developers to test.
Of course, plenty of free food and drinks were served. Coke, coffee and energetic drinks were highly demanded.
Some developers showed up with a predefined team and some others did not and needed to team up together and pitch their ideas to achieve a consensus on what to develop.
Some developers asked for advice to technical experienced people. Pablo, Adrian and Kristof were helping the students all day and night long with their doubts.
There were very interesting technical sessions like the Greenhouse API (by Sensing & Control) or the Smappee device API. Developers were then pitching their apps and projects in front of their mates during the hackathon and the judges composed by one or two person of every sponsor.
Winners & Awards
After the voting, all the results went public and the winners could pick their prizes in the way “first come, first served”. This means that the winner of the hackathon could pick the prize they wanted the most from the list of available prizes of the event.
This is the list of projects developed during the 24hr coding session in their final selection order:
- BrotherBear A smart babymonitor combining raspberry pi and motion detection algorithms on a ps3 camera (best overall)
- Greenhouse Optimization. Cost-Efficiency optimization for the VUB Greenhouse (most innovative)
- Action/Reaction Generic trigger & action system applied to Arduino. (third place)
Two more interesting projects were presented, but were not selected among the winners:
- Greenhouse monitor. Complete Greenhouse monitoring app via web/phone
- SmappeeRulez. A customizable set rules for Smappee device
All these projects are available on the Hacker League platform and their Github repositories (open source code).