First virtual Hackathon succeeded beyond expectations

Principal lecturer Asko Mononen from Laurea.

This year the annual Hackathon of 3AMK was organized online. All three universities of applied sciences organized parallelly separate events. Yet, all the events had common lectures from world-class speakers. The events proved that the result is just as good as in real life, if the participants are motivated.

As in previous years’ Hackathons, students listened to lectures and worked in teams. PhD Sumantra Saha, an expert from Google, lectured the students on how to build a conversational agent by using DialogFlow and Firebase. In addition, Antti Koivisto from Headai presented a Microcompetencies-platform. By using the platform, students can compare their skills and future job market, and see how well their skills match the labor market.

“Presentations from Google and Headai described well the possibilities of artificial intelligence from both business and technology perspective and gave tools to plan the projects. Business cooperation makes the learning concrete and links the projects to topical technology trends”, says Ari Alamäki, a principal lecturer from Haaga-Helia.

However, the greatest input came from the students themselves. Exceptional conditions inspired practical solutions that answer topical problems. Teachers and software engineers coached the students online. According to Asko Mononen, a principal lecturer from Laurea, this worked out well.

“Students worked hard and implemented corona-specific, AI-based chatbot solutions, like history quiz, meal assistance bot, customer service bot, and weather based robotic automation. The technology worked well, and final presentations were amazing!”, Mononen says.

"A great example of how studying in the times of corona can work"

Hackathon and teachers received praises from students. According to Lejla Plecan, the event succeeded beyond expectations and the day was very productive. In her opinion, the presentations from Google and Headai were excellent.

“Our team managed to complete all the tasks via Zoom, so all in all it was a great experience and I loved learning by doing approach. For someone completely new to the topic and without tech background, I felt proud at the end of the day when I was able to demonstrate with my team our working version of the educational chatbot”, Plecan comments.

One of the pros of the virtual Hackathon is that students could participate from the distance. Julian Braack was one of the exchange students that had to leave Finland and was joining Hackathon from Germany.

“The hackathon yesterday was a great example of how studying in the times of corona can work. I was in Germany, but I still had the opportunity to listen to the great presentations from Google and Headai. I also believe all teams accomplished a lot during those short hours and were able to present a really nice prototype.”

Participation from distance didn’t seem to have an effect on students’ performance.

“The opportunity to do hacking from home with on demand coaching was exceptional. The students took well advantage of this and provided some really intriguing results on their assignments. There were presentations for example on diagnosis and skills development bots. Also, some technical solutions were presented”, concluded researching lecturer Aarne Klemetti from Metropolia University of Applied sciences.

Some Hackathon projects continue after the event. Participants agree that the presentations were an excellent kick-off for this.

Picture: Unsplash

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