Tuesday, 23 June 2020

i4C Blogathon - First Prize Winning Entry by Ms. Dhanashree Revagade | Theme - SIH

How Smart India Hackathon (SIH) participation has helped me to strengthen my competency and enhance my skill-sets

First Prize Winning Entry  | Theme - SIH 

 






Ms. Dhanashree Revagade 
3rd Year, Comp/IT
Indian Institute of Information Technology (Pune)

Smart India Hackathon (SIH), is one of the biggest platforms to learn product development and the most significant innovation model inculcating teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking. I've participated in the SIH in three consecutive years (2018, 2019, 2020), which are the significant milestones in my journey to acquire several technical and professional skills. In this essay, I will take you through this extraordinary learning expedition. 

(Fig 1: My SIH Journey)


In my first academic year at college, I got acquainted about the SIH competition. Excited about the concept, I decided to give it a try and formed a team with my friends for SIH 2018. Although we were inexperienced and novice in the technologies, our zest to learn through new opportunities fuelled our excitement. We chose a problem statement in the agricultural domain, which required an agro advisory app. Lacking the skills needed for Android App Development, we nevertheless submitted the solution for shortlisting. Looking back at it, I realise that our approach was unsystematic, unorganised and haphazard. We had proposed many features without technical research and detailed study. Although our team couldn't clear the first phase that year, we sure did learn valuable lessons. 


The major lesson was the importance of comprehensive team discussions and brainstorming on the problem statement, which was acutely lacking in our maiden attempt at SIH.  Also, I learnt that one cannot just thoughtlessly propose features without a strong understanding of the fundamentals. Understanding the exact requirements for submission was also a very crucial component that our team hadn’t paid pay heed to. Even though our first attempt was unsuccessful, these lessons continued to guide me in my future endeavours, one of which was the SIH 2019. 


Then the sophomore year came with newer opportunities. This time, I was better acquainted with the SIH process and had prior experience too, but was slightly ambivalent for participating again after the previous unsuccessful attempt. Fortunately though, two of my seniors approached me during this time to join their SIH 2019 team. Notwithstanding the dilemma, my passion for learning something new took better of me and I finally decided to join their team - “Calm down its just Genjutsu”. Thus, once again, I was to become a part of SIH. 



Immediately after finalising the team, we began shortlisting the potential problem statements eventually finalising two of them. Post that, our focus was squarely on development of a prototype for the first-level submission. Active technical discussions then helped us understand potential solutions. To further improve our thought process, we extensively referred to the published scientific literature. These gave us a broader perspective on the problem statement and the applicable methods. At every step of this significant process, I referred to my previous SIH experience to better this attempt. Although I was enjoying the process, there was one thing that constantly bothered me. 


I wondered whether my inclusion to the team was a tactic to satisfy the female member criteria, according to which, at least one female member was required for a legit participation. Moreover, having more female members was profitable from the tie-breaker point of view. This determined me to prove that my inclusion was a worthy decision.  Thus, I worked harder to enhance my research skills, critical thinking abilities and solely focused on contributing to the project. Eventually, after weeks of hard work, our team made two submissions. Now our hopes were on results!


When the results were declared, we were ecstatic on learning that our team had been selected for one of the two submitted solutions. Moreover, our happiness knew no bounds as we were the first-ever team from our college to be a part of the SIH Grand Finale. At this juncture, I had begun to believe that I made the right decision by embracing this excellent learning opportunity. Now the focus was entirely on our solution for the Grand Finale. 


The problem statement was 'Inconsistency detection in medical annotation' provided by ezDI organisation. We informed our mentors and began working wholeheartedly towards the development of the solution. Many times our team quibbled and debated on different ideas, but the intriguing questions and constant confusions made us learn collaboratively. After organising our approach using flow diagrams, understanding the show stoppers, and writing to researchers for clearing doubts when needed, we were finally ready for the Grand Finale in March 2019.


(Image 1: Our team coding in the 36-hour Hackathon at NIT Warangal)


In the 36-hours of Hackathon at NIT Warangal, we coded continuously and coordinated together to present our innovative idea. What impressed the evaluators was our use of a whiteboard to systematically explain the flow of our solution and different graphs to analyse the obtained results. After going through rigorous evaluation rounds and presentations at various stages, we relaxed and waited for the results to be announced.


Then finally, after hearing our team’s name in the winners' list, our happiness knew no bounds. Months of hard-work telescoped into our sudden cheer. We were awarded medals, certificates, and the prize cheque. This left us with an indelible memory of the winning moment.


(Image 2: Our winning moment in the SIH 2019 Grand Finale)


SIH 2019 played a significant role in my personal development. Although I felt that my inclusion in the team was because of the female member requirement, I made sure to act my part with integrity and sincerity.I independently developed the search module in the end-to-end solution during the Hackathon. The appreciation from evaluators, mentors and teammates for the flawless and quick searches in the module imparted a lot of confidence into me. Coding for 36 hours continuously in the Hackathon, taught me a great deal about time management, commitment and introduced me to the limitless nature of my strength and inner resolve. I had come a long way from my ambivalence to participate in the Hackathon to becoming more confident about my technical expertise because of SIH 2019.  In fact, I had understood that consistent hard-work in a focused direction pays off brilliantly. SIH 2019 ended, but the learning continued. 

Our mentor motivated us to work on the problem further with a purely scientific research point of view. Believing that winning should not hinder my further learning, I embraced one more opportunity and challenged myself yet again. Working on the same problem at a stretch, revisiting the approach and noting down every detail this time, helped my research team see through the loopholes in our existing solution. During this process, I learnt about the deeper aspects of research methodology, research conduct, and the importance of coherent documentation and systematic presentation of ideas. These I realised are as important as developing a fully-functional solution. Within 2.5 months, our manuscript was ready and we eventually submitted it to ACM Forum for Information Retrieval Evaluation (FIRE) 2019 conference.


Then after paper acceptance, in December 2019, our research team went to the Indian Statistical Institute(ISI) Kolkata to present our first-ever research paper. The intriguing presentations, question-answer sessions, and my personal interactions with different researchers made me aware of the advancements in the domain. They filled my mind with many interesting research ideas.  

Learning significantly from these events in the past 2 years, I was eager to continue my learning spree.  So, this year again, for the third time, I decided to participate in SIH 2020. There were no confusions this time, no ambivalence to participate; only a strong passion for embracing new knowledge and developing exciting solutions. I am no longer in a team to satisfy the participation criteria; instead, I am in the team because of my collaborative nature, because of my technical strengths, and because of my hard work and my significant contributions - I have earned it.



We have cleared the preliminary selection phase for SIH 2020, and are trying to apply the skills and knowledge that we acquired from the remarkable process and previous participation. I am sure that the SIH 2020 Grand Finale would further contribute to my technical skills & apprise me of the key areas

I need to work on in the future. 


Overall, I feel SIH is the fundamental cause of my exploration of this fascinating research domain and becoming an excellent team player. All these experiences in my three consecutive academic years of college are the foundations of technical strengths and more than experiences they are my journey; an exceptional learning journey that I will always continue to cherish. 


Credits:

  1. Image 1 and Image 2 of our Grand Finale 

Source- SIH 2019 photo gallery shared by NIT Warangal.

  1. Fig 1. - My SIH Journey 

Made using MS- PowerPoint.

  1. Fig 2. - The skillset word cloud diagram 

Made using- https://wordart.com/

  1. The two thinking cartoons

Made using online tool - https://www.toonytool.com/





4 comments:

  1. Thank You i4C Blogathon for giving me this excellent opportunity.

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  2. I really feel glad Ma'am that you've shared such great experience with us. And also crafted it beautifully.

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  3. A journey of professional growth explained very well. All the best for the future endeavours!

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  4. Well done Dhanashree. Keep inspiring others through your meaningful work and zest to learn and explore. I am very proud of you. All the best!

    ReplyDelete