By February 2019 AI NI had held 10 meet-up events with varying topics and a wide range of success, as well as two academy events teaching different areas of machine learning. It was at this point that a more grand plan for a large scale event came to fruition. This came into the form of a Hackathon, an event giving people of the community a chance to come together, develop and learn about AI in a hands on setting.
Why a Hackathon?
The tech community is made up of so many wonderful meet-up groups, companies and of course, people who all have their unique skills and experiences; AI NI wanted to create a space that brings all of these aspects together to learn and build amazing projects. With this is mind the event became The Good (A)Idea Hackathon, an event to put technology minds together on company and societal challenges to utilise AI knowledge and technology for good.
The Good (A)Idea Hackathon took place on the 13th and 14th of April and ran in both the Queen’s University Campus in Belfast and the Ulster University Magee Campus in Derry; catering to over 200 hackers across the locations as a whole. We saw a range of experience levels coming together from industry professionals and AI enthusiasts, to students and developers forming teams and supporting each other in building solutions.
Our primary focus was upskilling. This event was not just about a few teams making an AI solution and winning some prize. At the core of the two days was the drive and ambition to demystify AI tools and knowledge by demonstrating, teaching and mentoring attendees to uncover the base understanding behind machine learning. Believe it or not, it seems we achieved our big feat.
The first day of the event saw us welcoming all our attendees with an opening keynote from one of AI NI’s co-founders, Jordan McDonald and our Diamond sponsor, Bazaarvoice. This keynote outlined the ambition behind this Hackathon, the company proposed challenges and of course the prizes up for grabs. Alongside this a list of all the mentors and detailed agenda of workshops running throughout the event were announced, meaning that every team had support and opportunities to learn the AI basics before cracking on with coding.
Three challenges were proposed for the two days, all designed to tackle some area where AI could be used in a positive way:
- Detection of fake reviews by Bazaarvoice
- Speech enhancement for hearing aids by Peltarion
- AI for Good by AI NI
After the keynote the hacking began!
The team decided to offer something a little different at the Hackathon by providing a range of technical and soft skills workshops from both AI NI and our wonderful sponsoring companies. These ran on the first day and allowed our attendees to get more than free catering and coding out of the event.
The first workshop was ran by our Academy team, Chloe and Jake, and focused on getting attendees to grips with the basics of understanding data, visualisations and the fundamentals of K-Nearest Neighbours for analysis of Kickstarter project success. There was an incredible turn out of over 100 attendees looking to get to grips with the basics to start their hacking!
Post lunch time the Bazaarvoice team held their workshop “Text Classification and Model Performance Evaluation”, designed to give some more insight into their challenge and a hints for creating successful models.
Following this we rolled out the soft skills portion of workshops, starting with the brilliant Mark Roberts from XP Innovates. Mark covered Pitching 101, an interactive and insightful session on how to perform a good pitch and tips for confidence which would come in handy for the judging in day two.
At the end of the first day the team from our recruitment sponsor, Hay’s Recruitment, offered up a CV Clinic to all the attendees; giving a chance for a quick check over, a chat about open opportunities or advice on where to start when it comes to CV’s.
The final day was upon us fuelled with more free breakfast and coffee the end was in sight for the teams hacking away!
We had some brilliant pitches from the teams and our judging panel was wowed by the innovation and high standard of solutions of AI for Good. The teams pitched everything from the proposed challenges, to congestion prediction, vegan product identification, mental health tracking and algorithms to classify abnormal heart murmurs. We couldn’t pick everyone to win but we had spot prizes for the Best Tweet, Societal Good and our Shining Stars, the people that went above and beyond to help their team and other teams.
Removing bias from CV's
AI for teaching sign language
Detection of fake reviews
Our Thank You's
This event would not have been the huge success it was without the continued support from the community and our sponsors. The companies that support these events allow us to provide resources, workshops, swag, prizes and full catering across the two days and with that being said we have to say thank you to Bazaarvoice, Huawei, Pramerica, Seagate, Peltarion, Hay’s Recruitment, Kainos, Invest NI, XP Innovates, Intel and our site hosts QUB and UU.
We’ll be back for another Hackathon soon enough, bigger and better than ever!