StacksFX at HackIIIT – My #1 hackathon

Hackathons are essentially hordes of people sitting together for 24 hours, working, coding and building together to convert their own newborn ideas that might solve complex problems. These small babies are later sold (Pitched) to the judges in the presentation round – to make them sound interesting, feasible and cutting edge enough to win a huge cash prize, some cool swags, stickers etc. All the while hogging on free food, lots of coffee and wifi. Yeah, that’s what we did as well with a small distinction that we secured the third prize at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi, ESYA’s HackIIIT. Read more for my account of the whole experience…

Origins of StacksFX / Ideation Phase

So, my friend Anuja recommended us to join this hackathon being organized at IIITD. I was not totally sold on it at first, but she convinced me to join up. Fast Forward to there we were, me and my team sitting in the corner of the seminar hall, listening to Kanav telling us the finer print about what HackIIIT is all about. Our team had Ayush Agarwal and Aakanksha both batchmates from Amity University. We got wooed by the categories, and further by the prizes. We were then moved to classrooms where we would spend the next 24 hours deciding and building our idea. So the categories on which these ideas would be on were:-

  1. XR (AR and VR)
  2. Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
  3. Smart City
  4. Health
  5. Bots
  6. Network and Security
  7. JukeBox

We had many ideas on several categories that were present, ranging from open-source or other relevant projects that we have seen in the past. I knew we should play to our strengths of each team member. Hence dropped out ideas 1,2 and 6, while 3 and 4 were way too general to achieve anything new that hasn’t been done before.

The only ones left were Bots and Jukebox. The only thing that might have been common between the three of us, was our love for music. Hence, we took Jukebox as our category after thinking a lot about it and started working on an idea that Ayush proposed to build. An emotion-based music player. I named the team, StacksFX for no particular reason. But I knew from the second I heard the idea of a music player, what its name was gonna be. Hence, StacksFX – an emotion-based music player.

Building it up from ground up

For context, check out the slides for StacksFX – bit.ly/vemotions

The one thing I really liked that we used concepts that we actually learned from our Software engineering classes. Here’s something how the first build looked like on paper.

img_20180818_002144.jpg

It’s a mess, but we had a pretty clear idea of what we were doing. Well, mostly till the mentors Anand and Shivenk showed up and genuinely showed interest in our idea. They really helped us improve this model and take it to what it became. An example of which is, we were first storing and classifying songs on our own. Until we realized we could get the API of Spotify and Itunes to do that for us.

We stayed up all night, drinking Appy (An Apple juice drink) and eating nachos, relentlessly working up on our projects. I handled the presentation, ideation, and API part of the project. While Ayush crushed it with his skills both on Frontend and Backend. Aakanksha tweaked the Cascade classifier that we are using for mood detection and helped in testing. We worked like a well-oiled machine, grinding through the hours trying to take in all feedback we received from our evaluations. At the end we were selected in the top 18 of all teams presents that would present to the judges. Here are some pictures of the same.

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The Pressure

In events like these, you are always playing the cat and mouse game with the clock. With half-finished features, to non-trained models. We had it all. The main thing in these events is not the let the pressure get to you. And even if it does, which it will, don’t show it. Our team came there to learn, to see what hackathon all about. And that was about it. We worked under pressure, had each other’s back and competed against all odds, even sleepiness.

I think that’s really important in the long run, for a team participating in events like these. Go with a mindset of “Win or lose, doesn’t matter” and you already have a victory on your hands before you even start coding.

The management team did a really good job accomodating us. Handling 50+ teams each in 3 hackathons combined is no easy task. But they pulled it off with ease, as the team worked with dedication all through the night just like we did for the success of their hackathon.

Final Top 18

We somehow got in the top 18 of HackIIIT when the results got out at 2 pm. We were so full of joy. ‘We have to win from here,… there is no going back now‘, I thought to myself. We whipped up some slides (here) and got ready for the presentation round for the make or break finale of HackIIIT.

I knew if our demo worked as planned, then we had a slight chance to win. That slight chance became negligible when I saw projects that were made by the other 17 teams. If talent was a river, then probably hackathons like these are the source from where they flow. People built a plethora of innovative projects, implementing groundbreaking ideas to solve problems and make life a little easier in the community through blockchain, Smart city and even bots. The judges asked questions to each team and were also cross-questioned by the audience under a time limit of 4 minutes. To be very honest, we were very nervous.

Next up, we have StacksFX!!

I won’t go into details. The presentation went really well. We touched all the bases that we previously discussed. I think we really sold them our idea, getting them to experience the true potenial of StackFX.  The demo performed brilliantly, detecting the happy face of Ayush and recommending a song to him which he proceeded to like later on. The judges and the audience asked us questions, which we replied with poise and confidence. And that’s about it. Here are some quotes that we actually said in front of the judges.

StacksFX helps you inch closer to that perfect song.
– Vipul Gupta

StacksFX recommends songs as per your mood
– Aakanksha

My emotion is my emotion, none of your emotion.
– Ayush Agarwaal

 

AND WE CAME THIRD !!

Out of 50 of the best teams from Delhi-NCR, the feeling of true happiness was upon us. If some model could quantify my happiness factor at that time, then it might break. It was truly a fairy tale for us, we came as beginners and learners to the competition. Thought of a good idea, worked on it, scrubbed it out. And out of nowhere, won the 3rd prize and load of other stuff.

This was a big morale boost for us overall. Inspiring us to participate in more hackathons. I hope, you do as well. There is no single starting point for these things in life. You might have thought about it, as you were reading that we are professional hackathon participants. But TBH we wasn’t. We had many problems getting the team together and coordinating. But who doesn’t. And if you ask me, it was all worth the trouble. The only people that matter were on that mattress with me (LOL). And if you have read till now, then believe me, you have started. Go to that hackathon happening near you, try to think of something great, and always remember win or lose. It doesn’t matter.

 

Live in the mix, guys.

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