“Inclusive STEM Confluence” is a very unique, one of a kind event, organized by five organizations – I-STEM, IIIT-B, Vision-Aid, Vision Empower and XRCVC. It has has three components. The center-piece is an inclusive hackathon that brings together visually impaired coders with software engineers from the Industry and students from IIIT and other colleges to code on exciting projects in a 24-hour hackathon setting. Confluence also includes a series of hi-tech workshops where visually impaired can learn about latest technical concepts like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Blockchain. It also has an Employer Connect Program which connects them with top Employers.
This year’s event was held on 17th and 18th January 2020. The event was co-sponsored by Intel, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley. It was also supported with employee and human resource participation from Oracle, Wipro and many others. The picture below shows Vision-Aid’s secretary Mr. V.L.Narasimhan, with Ms. Jayanthi, Senior Program Manager, Mr. Ramesh Kumar, Center Manager along with Mr. S.P.Singh head of Intel India CSR program, and Nithya an Intel developer. Nithya participated in the 24-hour coding event, enthusiastically writing code, along side Vision-Aid’s visually impaired participants.
There were seven teams participating in the 24-hour hackathon. There were several interesting projects. Two teams included Vision-Aid students, who were paired with industry engineers from Intel and Oracle, as well as IIITB students to develop projects.
Vision-Aid’s team consisting of Ankit Deb and Kulwinder Singh along with Kartik Arora and Intel developer Nithya, bagged the third prize. The project name, Spot- Me, is a dedicated device that let’s the visually impaired know when they are being pointed at by another person nearby. The second Vision-Aid team which included Nagababu and Laxmisagar, along with their mentors from Oracle and students from IIIT Bangalore, implemented and demonstrated the proof of concept on the project named OS-IDEA for Object and Sign Identity detection with extended accessibility. The picture below shows the Vision-Aid team getting the prize at the event.
The event also included several interesting workshops led by Microsoft volunteers including an employer exchange where job aspirants met employers, round table discussions on inclusion and a product expo which showcased many interesting ideas ranging from handwriting-to-text converters and tools to make complex diagrams accessible .
Pranav Savla, one of Vision-Aid’s youngest visually impaired student , who turned 14 on the last day of the event, presented a project “eFile Encryption and Decryption “.Pranav developed the project while taking the Harvard CS-50 class online. He was shared a series of audio updates throughout the event, and one of his messages really sums up the overall feeling “It was a really cool and informative event and its really cool to be here”.
“Wow, these blind coders are writing even better code than some of my team members” an enthusiastic comment was made by one of the project managers, participating in the Inclusive STEM Confluence event, who works for one of Bangalore’s top tech giants . This comment is one of the outcomes that is hoped for from these events i.e. to create awareness in industry professionals that blind or visually impaired coders are also very talented and can make strong contributions to the Information technology landscape.
Vision-Aid extends heartfelt congratulation to all it’s students, volunteers and team members, as well as participants and volunteers from all other fellow organizers – I-STEM, IIIT-B, Vision Empower and XRCVC, for another stellar, successful event. and which just wrapped up.