Inclusive STEM Hackathon 2019

The Inclusive STEM Hackathon is a 24-hour hackathon where visually impaired coders and software developers, industry professionals, and engineering students come together to work on exciting and challenging projects.

This years Inclusive STEM Hackathon began on 17th January and ended on 19th January, on the campus of IIIT Bangalore. Organizers of the event included IIIT Bangalore, I-Stem, Vision-Aid, Vision Empower Trust and The Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged.

The event was widey covered byl Indian media

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony was held on 18th January at IIIT Bangalore. The hackathon was inaugrated by Ms. Divya Singh, Senior Director at Applications Program Management of Oracle India (one of the corporate sponsors of this event) and Dr. Charles Severance, who currently serves as the Clinical Associate Professor of Information at the University of Michigan.

Ms. Divya Singh,  delivered an inspiring address, talking about several real life inspirational role models who had been able to overcome disability and adverse circumstances and rise to great heights, as well as the role of leading educational technologies and the role of technology companies like Oracle and others. She urged and inspired the participants to reach high.

Dr. Chuck joined the conference remotely via skype to deliver his keynote. Dr. Chuck is a legendary Coursera educator from the University of Michigan whose course “Programing for Everyone” taught via Coursera and is rated by Class Central to be one of the top 20 MOOCs in the world from which millions of studets have learned programming. Several of the  programmers at the hackathon learned programming from Dr. Chucks course. He stressed the importance of accessibility of learning materials, not only for the students, but for the teachers as well.  Dr.Chuck eloborated on unique aspects in creating MOOC content, with an emphasis on accessibility. He said that one of the principles of creating content is to break the topic down into clear learning objectives and then create the minimum content necessary to ensure those objectives are realized. According to him, while audio and text are easily consumed, diagrams and figures are still not easily accessible. He challenged the hackathon participants to come up with solutions to address this issue. Video coverage of Dr.Chuck’s keynote can be viewed in 2 separate clips : Clip1: and Clip2:

The Competition 

A total of 74 participants had gathered on 17th of January to form teams and decide on their projects for the Hackathon.

The hackathon was divided into two tracks, general and mentorship. The general track consisted of participants who had substantial experience in computer science. The mentorship track included students who were new to the field as well as corporate professionals who were willing to mentor these students. Teams in the general track were composed of five participants, two blind students/developers, two corporate professionals and one sighted computer science student. Teams in the mentorship track consisted of four participants, two blind students, one sighted student and one corporate professional, who acts as the mentor. The mentorship track also had a few junior teams where the vision impaired members were school students. 

Ten teams were formed under the general track and six teams were formed under mentorship track of which two were special teams with juniors below 15 years.

A number of Vision-Aid students participated in the hackathon. There names are listed below.

From general track:

1.            Saravanan K
2.            Ajay Minocha
3.            Laxmisagar Samai
4.            Shailesh Ambekar
5.            Nibin Matthew
6.            Bhargav Vaghasiya
7.            Bharathan mudaliar
8.            Balaji Varadarajan
9.            Ravi Teja
10.          Harsha HD
11.          Abhisar Waghmare
12.          Sajal Arora

From mentor track

1.            Moseen Ali
2.            Aswathy V.K
3.            Vedika Phadke
4.            T.Jayachandran
5.            Pinky Gupta
6.            Nisha Desouza
7.            Aarush Bhat
8.            Bhuvika Agrawal
9.            Pranav Savla
10.          Sumit Singla
11.          Satish Kumar

The hackathon started in earnest on the morning of18th January and concluded after 24 hours  at1 PM on 19th January.

  • For  Details on team composition and the projects, Click here
  • Video glimpses on team work in coding and Mentoring are  here

Judging the competition

There was a panel of judges who evaluated the projects. The panel was composed of 

  • Dr Ramana, Senior Vice President , Goldman Sachs
  • Ankit Jindal , Senior Marketing Director, Entity Data and Founder, Friends for Inclusion
  • Prof. Sujit Chakrabarthi, IIIT BANGALORE
  • Rajesh Sanal, Director, Deutsche bank

The distribution of points was based on the following criteria:
Technology – 30%
Design and accessibility – 10%
Learning and growth – 30 %
Project completeness – 30%

The coding concluded at 1 PM on 19th January. It The coding concluded at 1 PM on 19th January. It  was followed by a detailed presentation by each team that covered the goal,function and design details of each project. Most of the teams successfully demonstrated a working project. Video coverage of Projects presentation by all the teams can be viewed here: 

Hackathon Projects

Some of the projects worked on during the hackathon are listed below:

  • Voice Chess – An inbuilt audio input-output and text command based accessible chess game.
  • Good Unifundster – An application to make financial graphs and charts accessible for retail financial investors to make investment choices.
  • We Assist – A volunteer management app that builds in concept of Time Wallet for assistance.
  • Vision Flow – Web based Accessible flow chart creator and reader.
  • Finovate- An application to aid visually impaired investors to extract relevant financial data for making sound investments.
  • Smart Bus Navigation – App to assist reading of bus numbers at bus stops for the visually impaired
  • Bucky- A tool to extract text from video content.
  • GestWave – An app for using smart phone with hand gestures
  • Coin Detector- A smart app to identify Indian coins.
  • Around Me – An indoor navigation app using beacon technologies
  • U.R. Here – An app tp desctibe indoor layout for the visually impaired
  • NFC Bus Payment – A card swiping system for bus ticket payment.
  • I-Secure – A camera-face recognition based door security system with audio announcement of visitor name.
  • QuizzBuzz – An accessible quiz app
  • Invisible Hand- A smart App for connecting to a helpline in case of emergency.
  • Hangman4E – A voice driven hangman game.

Judges comments

Judges were very appreciative of the competitive spirit exhibited by all the teams and the core value of the projects undertaken.

They were unanimous in their appreciation of the work done by each team and expressed their increased empathy towards hackers and the visually impaired. They also made it a point to congratulate the mentorship track teams, especially the junior teams. They found it very exciting that even 7th and 8th grade students demonstrated proficiency in coding in Python. And last but not the least, they were highly impressed that these projects were completed in less than 24 hours.  

Selection of winning teams

The winner of the competition were:
First prize : Balaji, Ritwik Ravi Teja, Pushkar, Deepraj for Bucky, a tool to extract text from video content.
Second prize : Sanchit Ghule, Arunkumar, Vishal, Venkata Ravi Theja, Shrishti for Coin Detector.
Third prize :  Pranav,Sajal,Rishu,Lakshmi, Rohit for Good Unifundster – An application to make financial graphs and charts accessible for retail financial investors to make investment choices.

Video of the presentation by each teams is covered in here

Along with commendation certificates for all, the first, second and third prizes carried cash award of Rs.41,000, 21000 and 11000 respectively.

Juniors shine!

Judges , in a surprise move, announced the two junior teams as prize winners from mentorship track.
Our winners : Pranav, Nisha, Aarush and Bhuvika received their commendation certificates and cash award of RS 15,000.

The closing ceremony and prize distribution is covered in this video.

Conversation and discussions at the Hackathon

The hackathon other than being an event where the differently abled show their prowess it is also a platform where they can air their views and experiences.

A panel discussion was held to discuss the challenges to get access to STEM education and related careers in India. The discussion was chaired by Nirmita Narasimhan, Ms. Vidya Rao, Ms. Shantala Soumyaji, Dr. Ramana and Mr. Karthik Sawhney. Some of the key questions addressed were:

  • How can effective STEM education for visually impaired students be provided so that they can compete their sighted peers? 
  • How can access to education and careers be an enjoyable experience without being a roller coaster ride of logistical planning for learning resources?
  • How to shift the onus of resource arrangement away from the student agencies?
  • How can accessibility happen without unprecedented efforts on part of the students and parents?
  • How to change focus on disadvantage rather than disability, especially the economically challenged and their lack of access to quality education?

There was an interesting interaction session between Vasanthi and the participants from media side.

The video coverage of the same is here.

Listen to the organizers’ and the participants’ experience here

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