Day 16: Hackathon Review!

So I mean this post isn’t what I learnt today or such like, well maybe it might include something at the end. But I wanted to reserve today for the review of the hackathon I attended this past weekend. I mean I know another hackathon but it was so much fun and I learnt loads, so I guess it was worth it!

This weekend I attended the Zoohackathon which was hosted by ZSL in London. The theme of this hackathon, I mean as you can guess was about saving the animals and creating solutions that would in effect help with the conservation of animals. Considering most of the past hackathons I have attended have always been about, creating very technical solutions encompassing finance or new technology is was nice to have a break from that and concentrate on something else entirely!

I mean our team was formed of only hackers, some teams were compromised of designers or maybe even some project managers and financial geeks. But I mean it was also ok just to have a team that was solely formed of hackers, I mean that is the point of a hackathon right? However including other people in the designing phase of your project can be immensely useful, as they have a different perspective on ideas and solutions to problems!

Our idea was basically to have an android app that would be used to take a picture of a menu, that was obviously written in a different language (although can also be used with your native language), it would then process it and spit out the results of our software. Essentially it would give feedback as to if the food you were planning to eat contained any endangered or vulnerable species (this data was taken from the data-sets we were provided with!). I really liked the idea, and I found it to be very scalable, implementing this interface into many languages, having an app that would work in realtime as you hovered over the menu, rather than requiring you to take and save a picture of a random menu, who wants to do that right?

However we ran into some pretty large technical issues throughout the project. The first was trying to send the image that would be taken on the android application onto our image server. We were trying to use a compression algorithm called ‘Base64’ to compress our picture into a series of alphanumeric characters. However every time we tried doing this through the android app and over a HTTP request, our image wasn’t coming out the other side. We spent the good part of about 18 hours on this problem, trying and trying again to try and solve the problem of sending the image. In the end we realised it wasn’t a viable option and decided to rewrite our frontend into React. This was much easier and the image transportation seemed to work within the first few attempts. I mean this posed a few problems considering we had to rewrite our initial idea and previous code, moreover it wasn’t quite a native application so wouldn’t really interact in the same way as an app, however in the long term we would be able to write in lets say something like React Native, and we would probably be able to solve the problem that we were encountering!

All in all I learnt loads of new things, for example how to compress an image effectively such that you would be able to send it over a server connection. I always had thought that you would somehow upload the full image to some database, how I was wrong! I also learnt what not to do in a hackathon, which is spend way too long on a solution, only to change the stack of what I was writing it in, a couple of hours before the end of the project!

See our team project here:

But that’s all for tonight, see you tomorrow!


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