NaijaHacks 2019: The Experience So Far!
The few months closing off this year 2019 have been all about attaining milestone after milestone and today, Dec 12, marks another milestone in my journey so far!
My team got selected to present and pitch our project, in the presence of internationally renowned personalities serving as judges, at NaijaHacks Expo Day at Zone Tech Park, Lagos.
NaijaHacks is the biggest hackathon in Africa. Not the biggest in just Nigeria, nor one of the biggest in Africa, but the biggest hackathon in Africa. NaijaHacks is a week-long online hackathon culminating in the best teams being invited to the Demo day at Zone Tech Park, Lagos.
For those who have heard of the word ‘hackathon’, but don’t know the meaning;
A hackathon is an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in problem solving, with the goal of creating a functioning product by the end of the event.
How It All Began...
My interest in NaijaHacks started late last year, after my mentor, Fab, and his team, Team Votera, won the most awards at the inaugural edition of NaijaHacks in 2018.
When this year NaijaHacks started accepting applications in early October, I was aware but I didn’t intend on applying because I think I’m not proficient enough to participate.
But then, Beloved Temitope, a friend of mine, told me that there’s a beginners’ category. So I applied. I wasn’t really expecting to be admitted, yet I received a confirmation message early November that I’d be selected that I should confirm and complete my registration. Cheers!
And It Started.
On Saturday, Dec 7, NaijaHacks started. A slack group was created and day 1 was mainly about team formation. It took me a while before I could get into a team I feel comfortable with.
It was just two of us in my team, Team Perspective. And you know the funny part?
My teammate happened to be a fellow student from my school, and we have never met before!
Even throughout the NaijaHacks online sessions, we didn’t meet physically once. In fact, we’d be meeting for the first time at the Expo later today.
The BlockBuster Week.
The NaijaHacks week was a very crazy week for me. That was my CATs (Continuous Assessment Test) week. I had 6 tests within Monday to Thursday.
Simultaneously, that week was also my church’s annual End of Year week. Since I’m a Youth Exco Official, I couldn’t miss any of the church programmes.
And by Friday evening, I broke down. The stress was way too much for me to handle. I didn’t recover until the submission night on Saturday.
Thanks to Heaven that I have a teammate who is a ninja, or else, we’d probably be in a limbo right now.
Lack of dataset. We couldn’t get hold of the datasets that we needed. Hence we couldn’t include all the functionalities that we planned to. There was an organization we even had to apply before they could release data to us. We applied, and till now, they haven’t approved of the release.
Heavy Internet Data Subscription. We did crazy internet data subscriptions within those week. Downloading and uploading datasets require huge amount of data. I reckon that I must have used around 7GB of data within the one week of hackathon. My teammate would easily have used around 13GB of data, because he also did the Android and iOS components.
Lack of a Web or Mobile Guys Both of us are exclusively ML developers. We badly needed those 2 guys but we couldn’t get hold of one. This really stunted our progress a great deal. Kudos to my teammate who believes that everything is attainable if only your mind can conceive it. Had to learn enough Java and Xcode to deploy our Machine Learning models in mobile apps.
Power Issue. The power guys chose the NaijaHacks week to embark on their strike. We didn’t have electricity for, I think, 4 days. I remember that I’d to sleep over at the library so I’d make use of the school emergency generator.
NAIJAHACKS: THE PROS
Making use of Slack group is a feature that I really fell in love with. It makes everything so organized and orderly. In fact, I wish I could making use of Slack to organize all spheres of my life.
I don’t know who brought out the idea of Bizskills but whoever came up with the idea deserves a mug of beer. We were given special waivers to participate in some business courses on Bizskills and even get certificated for free. Most developers do focus too much on the technical aspects of things, forgetting that the business and leadership skills matter as much as the technical skills.
Recommendation of excellent courses for the beginners I really love. I saw quite a couple of guys that utilized this opportunity very well. Learning with a deadline approaching is one the best learning styles for me. I learn so well when under duress.
The ideas of mentors guiding the teams is a really cool idea. Even though, it might not have worked out as intended. Most mentors did not even have time at all to be helping out the teams. My mentor asked “How far?” only once throughout the whole duration of the week-long collaboration.
NAIJAHACKS: THE CONS
- Travel Reimbursement.
Some of us really did need the reimbursement. I spent all the cash I had for internet data subscription. For the travelling fees, I had to seek out the help of friends. In a way, this is hardly NaijaHacks’ fault. According to the NaijaHacks team, virtually everybody applied for the travel reimbursement which is quite, appalling. But then, maybe they’d have the reimbursement option available for students only. As a developer, it is either one is in working-class or one is still a student. A guy was saying on the group that he boarded a plane from Abuja to Lagos and he was still asking about reimbursement plan from the Organizers. If you have enough money to book a flight (not even take a bus ride), why should you request for a travel grant? Maybe next year, NaijaHacks would borrow a leaf from Data Science Nigeria and make travel grants available for only students, who can provide proofs of their studentship.
I’m looking forward to the Expo happening later today. We'd see maybe we’d win ourselves some prizes and awards.
I’m also looking forward to network with all the amazing people who’d managed to make it to NaijaHacks ’19 Expo. I know it wasn't easy at all.
And importantly, I’m looking forward to meeting my wonderful teammate for the first time, (even though we are from the same school, we’ve never met before).