Tuesday, 23 June 2020

i4C Blogathon - Second Runner Up Prize Winning Entry by Mr. Nikhil Agarwal | Theme - SIH

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

Second Runner Up Prize Winning Entry  | Theme - SIH 











Mr. Nikhil Agarwal
3rd Year, Comp/IT
Dr. D. Y. Patil Institute of Engineering,
Management and Research, Akurdi 

Smart India Hackathon, you hear the name and suddenly, there is a buzz around the college. You start hearing echoes of national competition, problem statements, prototypes, hardware, software, mentor and the whole college becomes a hub for intense discussion groups and teams of college students trying to solve industry problems!

Just to give a brief, Smart India Hackathon (SIH) is a nationwide initiative by AICTE and MHRD to provoke critical thinking amongst students to bring out-of-the-box solutions to the problems faced by the industries. Moreover, SIH is a platform for students like us, to display their skills and learn new skills and techniques through real-life practical implementations. Not just technical, SIH is a perfect test for all the traits of a student be it social, communication or innovative.

Instead of giving an overview of its aspects, let me share my journey of the Smart India Hackathon. This is like a perfect 3hr movie with just the climax remaining to be completed in this year’s hackathon.

The Story

Beginning

Being a hyper active and excited grown up kid, I had just tasted the flavor of engineering and was in the 2nd year, when I get to know that just a degree won’t do any good, you need to add flavors to your resume. Me being an opportunity seeker, pushed myself to take part into everything that came my way, no matter what. Similar to this, came a fairy tale knocking on my door, when 5 of my seniors made a team for SIH 2019 and were in quest for a 6th member. Just talking to them, I got to know about the hackathon.

By now, I had reached a place where I had already won the hackathon and was preparing to give interviews and speeches of success. Without any hesitation, a “yes, definitely!” came out of my mouth to seal the 6th spot in the team of 5 seniors of mine. Being new to computer coding, I had just barely learnt printf and scanf in C and was about to rock the world with thousands of lines of code, stupid or opportunistic? I knew there was risk, but I also knew it was worth taking.


Quest to find my spot

Well, now I was in the team and the seniors being sweet to me, told me about the whole process. Barely wanting to know, I was still in a land where I was preparing my hackathon winning speech. But then came a flying question which dragged me down to earth – What’s my role gonna be?? Just to tell you, I was part of a team which had almost the best coders of my college and I still didn’t knew what a 'class' was! After thinking for a few seconds, I say in a fumbling voice, ‘Jo bologe kar lunga’ (I will do anything you would say). All 5 understood I had little knowledge about stuff. 

After intense discussions and planning we finalized our ppts for the competition. Me being a little good with words, helped in the formation of the proposals in the ppt and story cut short, one of our ideas got selected. 

Next day, we planned to decide the implementation. In the discussion, I heard words like Spring, Springboot, Angular and I felt am hearing to some language I have never heard before. They asked me to work on the backend with Springboot. Ready for the challenge, I turn on my laptop and saw a video on Youtube – “Learn Springboot in 25mins”. Just 25 mins? This is all it takes to become an elite coder? I see the video and of the 25 mins all I understood was one thing – this is beyond my understanding level. My team members had understood this, they asked me what would you do? I had heard a lot about Machine Learning that time and I told, Machine Learning. 

After a few laughters and jokes, we decided to go with Machine Learning. I had understood they have lost hope in me but being the stubborn kid, I decided to prove myself. I learnt decent ML in just 15 days. This was the first time I had acquired a coding skill.

The Main Stage

The day came. We were at G. H. Raisoni College of Engineering, Nagpur for the Grand Finale and me, as always, over-excited. The Grand Finale is 36hrs of non-stop coding. My SVM model (Machine Learning implementation model) was half ready and I knew what was to be done next. Although, the other part which was the main project, was not completed even a quarter. The 36hrs started and all looked into their computer screens, trying to write kilometre long lines of codes and debug them. 

Now, there are 3 evaluation stages in the Grand Finale, 1st on the same day, 2nd on the next day morning and the final at the end of 36 hrs. Time for the first evaluation. Our team leader was a sweet girl with a deep well of knowledge. She gave her best although her voice being a little too low, was not able to explain the project that well. We failed miserably in the first evaluation. Probably last on the charts. We were all heads down and in half regret already. I try to crack a couple of jokes to lift them up and an unexpected anti-climax, it worked! Not much a little, but yes then all were focused back again to work.

We worked real hard, this time had much more to show to the judges and my SVM too, was ready with 96.7% accuracy. An hour before the 2nd evaluation, we sit to plan how to cope with this one. The problem was that our leader was not able to express herself that well and no one was ready to take the responsibility of taking us ahead. And while the 5 are discussing for points every individual would put up so as to cover, I make another stupid move of telling them that I will do it. Like seriously, am a kid who has no knowledge whatsoever about the project and am claiming to explain it to the industry experts. All denied even without a second thoughts but to my surprise, our leader, that little girl, she backed me and said let him do it. Now, along with the other team members, even am shocked to listen to this. But okay, then they explain me the whole project in around 20 mins and we are ready for the presentation.

The presentation went beyond expectations and the judge was impressed by our idea. I was in good mode at that time. As the judge left, my team, in semi shock, patting me on my back and congratulated for this. The hopes of winning the competition were risen again and this time, I was happy to take the credits. We worked hard although not able to complete the project even till the end evaluation. I tried to explain details but they are called experts for a reason and they were easily able to catch all our loop holes.

Results

We had messed up and we knew results were not in our favor. It was a great experience but winning would have made it the perfect one. Failure had struck me hard because I felt this was my golden opportunity which I missed out on. This experience taught me lessons on time management, grit, determination, confidence but above all, a lesson for failure.

We returned to college with failure to show. Although we were greeted very well in college for reaching at the Grand Stage, we were somewhat depressed. This lasted for around a week, 'the post-dilemma'.

Rising Sun

This failure and struck me hard and I was in full mood to rebel. I decided that I have to win the SIH next year come what may. I dedicated completely to coding for a year. I learnt web development, android app development, Machine learning, artificial intelligence and the latest trends of the industry. I was fully prepared for the next year’s hackathon. 

I started building my team and was waiting eagerly for the problem statements. The problem statements came and we went through all of them, software as well as hardware and shortlisted a few. Eventually, we had to decide on one. After intense brainstorming for a week, of all the domains in computers, we decide upon a statement in networking, the only field I had not even touched. But this time, I am ready for the challenge. Also, unlike the last year, this year’s problem statement is in the hardware domain. So we were ready to venture into unknown seas.

We worked on the statement real hard and in the proper way. I learnt the different aspects of the working of a network, how data transfers, how internet works and much more. We were all set of the Internal round of the SIH 2020. Our team won the 1st prize in the hardware edition of the internal hackathon. The lion had finally tasted blood. We prepared ppt for the main stage too and our ppt has been shortlisted in the first round of SIH 2020.

Conclusion

The Smart India Hackathon has been one of the most integral part of my engineering journey. It was really helped me to carve myself into the individual I am today. The importance of versatility and adoptablitiy have been instilled into me through the learnings. The way of looking towards problems have drastically changed. Not just the technicalities, but SIH had helped me become a man I would have never been had it not been SIH. Thank you.


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