Hack-A-BIT 2018

A WhatsApp group named "BIT Hackathon" on 9th May 2018. It was an initiative no senior has taken to date. I was supposed to the biggest initiative ever taken by a BITian. Discussion started immediately about the name. Ayush came up with a suggestion - Hack-A-BIT. Everyone immediately accepted the name. At the same time, Ankit formed a separate group of K16 juniors to keep them updated with the Hackathon.

No work was done during the entire summer. It seemed like everyone had lost their interest in organizing the Hackathon. Finally, on 20th July, the first meeting was held. All the core members (except girls) were part of that meeting. The initial estimates of the Budget were made. All the points related to the Hackathon was noted. We could not have let the slack loose. On the same day, the core team was finalized and event details were also documented. A permission letter was drafted which was signed by the three presidents - Anuj, Aashray and Aakarshit. 

The initial event details carried benefits to the institute and event flow. One thing worth mentioning is that we stuck to the same event flow till the last day of Hackathon without even thinking whether we would have the permission to do such things. Benefits to the institute included improving college ranking, improve placements and exposure.

From the next day, we started our daily march to the Dean office. Sometimes he was not available. Sometimes he was on lunch. Some days he decides not to show up. And finally, when he meets, he is not interested in the plan that we have. He asked us to give detailed information about sponsorship. We only had one organization to sponsor us - TEQIP. TEQIP immediately approved the sponsorship for Hackathon on 23rd July. Even after that, the vice-chancellor was not at all positive about the outcome of the Hackathon. He denied permission. We requested the Dean to consider again. He talked to the vice chancellor. On 31st July, a Facebook page was created but was pending public release. Finally, on 31st July, all permissions were passed and Hack-A-BIT was ready to roll. 

Somewhere around this time, all club meeting was held to decide the schedule for the entire year. I went forward and wrote "26th-28th October - Hack-A-BIT". I received absolutely no objection from anyone. Everyone else knew that a major event was going to take place this year.

"Hack-A-BIT is coming" was released on 2nd August. We made an entire week's plan for releasing the poster, event schedule etc. On 8th August, the event schedule was released and we decided to stick to the schedule till the last date no matter what. At this point, most of the core team was busy with their placements. Within two days, we created a 10 page long Rule Book stating the rules of the Hackathon. Three teams had major work at this point of time - Publicity, Finance and Tech.

Here I would like to extend a big thanks to Gautam Santhosh from IIIT Allahabad. He guided us a lot in organizing the entire hackathon. Hack-A-BIT 1.0 was based on the success of HackInTheNorth organized by IIIT Allahabad.

Publicity

Anuj spammed all the groups of BIT to publicise Hack-A-BIT. Anuj was blocked by several people including me for spamming the social media. He created a fake account named "Vidya Singh" as he thought that a girl won't be blocked anywhere. He joined the groups of other colleges with this fake identity. 

The email was the next means for publicity. We collected the email address of other college students from previous fests like Pantheon and Bitotsav. And we started sending out 100s of emails to the students. At one point, thousands of emails were sent to publicise Hack-A-BIT. Some even replied. One popular reply was - "Please don't invite us, we had a very bad experience during Pantheon (technical fest of BIT Mesra)". 

The incentives included were - Travel reimbursement, free food, free accommodation, zero registration charges, free t-shirts and goodies, free coupons, online software credits, hardware and cash prizes worth Rs. 65,000.

Anuj was blocked tonnes of times for spamming the groups especially when he started proposals for sponsorship to the groups. But he never gave up. He had sworn to take Hack-A-BIT to the next level. The K16 juniors were not at all supportive of the event. They had absolutely no interest in making Hack-A-BIT a success. We called up several meetings to ask them to share the post. But none did.

A meeting was held by the college administration and Anuj was asked to explain what Hack-A-BIT was. He gave a long lecture to all the faculty members and DSW. Everyone was quite impressed by the idea of Hackathon at the college level. 

After registration started, Hack-A-BIT garage was set up were juniors were asked to contribute articles to spread the awareness of open source development in the college as well as help us with the publicity. About 15 original articles were published in the garage. Our mascot "Ada" was finalized by Ayush somewhere during this time. I cannot forget the JuJu joke by Pooja.

Finance

Aman Sharma and Ankit started their work. Aman failed to get even one sponsor during the three months. We started mailing every company. We started with the tech companies that have previously sponsored Bitotsav. A few juniors from the finance team were quite dedicated. They were taught how to send emails. The mailed and updated the status of each of the company. We got no response for several days. We thought TEQIP was our only means of sponsorship.

After some time, we got our first response from Zebronics and Skillenza. Ankit got their MoU signed and we released our first sponsor from the Facebook page. 

1300 emails were sent in a week. Two notable sponsors were: 

1. WeCP: They got our brain busted. We made a lot of struggle to have them sign up as a sponsor.
2. Balsamiq: The only sponsor from outside of India. Paid us in dollars which has a long story of how it was converted to Indian currency.

Tech

Me, Aakarshit, Paritosh and Ashank were the part of Tech team. We got a mammoth task. We had only four days as the website was to be released on 12th August. We were lazy as well. We got Manish to work on the project. He picked up a template and started modifying it. All his design ideas were rejected. We wanted to keep it simple and elegant. No complexities at all. We took up the website in our hands on 11th August and completed it within a day.

We were not done yet. The registration was scheduled to begin on 15th August. We had not even initialised the code of the portal. We started and coded continuously for 2 days. The continuous building, testing and integration took place and we were finally able to release the portal one day late on 16th August. It was also during this time, several automation scripts were written to automatically send emails and publicise the event.

2 days after the website was up and everything was going fine, Sumit Srivastav called us. He was angry for two reasons -

1. Why was there no message section on the website? (He wanted a message section where all the faculty advisors and dean spoke something about the event).
2. Who gave us permission to start the registration without official notice from the college?

Sumit Srivastav has been very cooperative with us in getting the initial permission for the event. But then, he changed. He asked the dean to cancel the event. He also asked us to give a written apology letter. He told us that none of us would be given a degree certificate if we don't put up the message on the website.

We created 5 message samples. We gave it to each faculty advisors and dean and asked them to choose which one was more suitable for them. They chose one and we immediately put up the message on the website. We could not have stopped the registration. We created a Telegram Bot which automatically fetched the registration details and notified everyone. We added the faculty advisors to keep them updated.

It was also during this time that we had to think about the Internet. BIT had a limit of 3 GB and 512 KBps bandwidth. This was definitely not acceptable when you are going to organize such an event. Mustafi sir told us that BIT has a total bandwidth of 1.5 Gbps from all the fibre nets. We got the permission to use 1 Gbps bandwidth spread across 250 login Ids. Mustafi asked us to get a signature from all the students of BIT but later agreed seeing our efforts. At times we even thought of installing expensive routers ourselves (which could have cost us several lacs).

Permission issues


I don't even remember the number of permission letter that we had to write for this event. Believe me, the final file containing all the Hackathon permission is thicker than Britannica encyclopaedia. Pooja was part of the logistics team. He wrote all the letters regarding permissions. 

The initial permission letter carried 15 signatures from Presidents, Faculty Advisors, Registrar, Dean and Vice Chancellor. Then we got permission for Internet, website, sponsorship, core members, publicity, flex, resource etc. The list is endless.

The biggest issue was deciding the location for the Hackathon. Initially, people suggested conducting the Hackathon in an open arena like the Upper Lawn. Problems were the power source, connectivity and most importantly, security. We had no options. RnD wing was a single solution to all the problems. However, RnD had its own problem. All labs of RnD are occupied by Training and Placement cell throughout the year. TnP has unlimited power in this college. They only need to ask for something and it will be served to them. We had to go through hell to get permission for the labs at RnD. We occupied all the labs and just prayed that there is no TnP activity during the Hackathon hours.

Registration

Registration started on 16th August. Everyday Anuj asked me "How much?" and I said "4!". Only 4 teams were registered in the first 10 days of the registration period. I was very impatient. Anuj was calm. He continued his publicity journey. After about 25 days of start of registration, we got 40 teams registered. Anuj was very happy. He thought we can select everyone. I told him that one of the team had an idea of "Hacking Google Servers". LMHO. Anuj realized that this won't work. He decided to work his ass off for the next few days. No more emails. We decided to call each of the participants and ask them to submit their ideas.

We were joined by some juniors. We called everyone. Whoever Anuj called turned out to be a girl and he swayed them. We made 120 calls per day. Several sim cards were blocked. After a lot of struggle for the next 5 days, 450 teams submitted their ideas before the end of the closure of the registration portal. There were about 1450 participants who were registered. We had never been so much satisfied. For a blooper, Ankit only called up girls who turned out to be boys instead (sed! :( ).

Team selection

We had 5 days to evaluate all the ideas and release the first list of selected teams. We required the teams to upload their tickets and so had a fear that the teams might not be able to get their tickets if we delayed the result. Paritosh created an online portal to score each of the ideas. All the core members were given access to the portal and we started scoring each idea. The ideas were scored on the basis of originality, application and profile of participants of the teams.

For some ideas, our scores conflicted a lot. Ankit and Anuj were scoring separately and rest were in a group. Paritosh and Aakarshit were irritating us as they were reading about each of the technology of an idea before evaluating it. We scored about 50 ideas in one day. We were even scoring the ideas during the lectures. Days and night passed so fast and we hardly were done with 300 ideas. Later on, we decided to speed up. We started scoring hastily.

Then came the toughest part. We observed a general fall in our scoring curve. We applied statistics to raise the curve to the standard line to account for our fatigue during scoring (Yes! We did that). We plotted our scoring curve and realized that some of us were too strict in scoring. We decided to remove those ideas for which at least one of us has a score below 10. We recorded the reason for the same as well. We normalized the scores before adding up. Finally, we totalled the score. The real credit for scoring goes to Aakarshit.

We were not done yet. We needed diversity in selection. Hardware projects and All girls team were special categories. no more than 5 teams were to be selected from a single college. Also, we required diversity in the domain of idea. All projects cannot be based on Machine learning. Taking all this factor into account, 35 teams were shortlisted out of which only 3 were able to make it from our college.

More problems. Some teams simply backed out. Some teams thought the incentives were not good enough. One team from BIT backed out. "BIT se jo team nahi aaya usko toh goli maar denge. Pehle goli marenge phir puchenge ki kyu nahi aaya", Anuj said. On 2nd October, all teams were finalized and the list was released. A total of 188 participants were finalized for the Hackathon.

Newspaper publicity and controversy

Somewhere during this time, we were also trying hard to get publicity from the newspaper. We caught the attention of lots of local papers including the Telegraph. They scheduled an interview with Dean. Dean was very happy and it was somewhere during this time he realized that the event was going to be a success. Our photo came in the newspaper. Wow!.

Oh! How can we forget one more controversy during this time? Sumit called us back to the office. He was furious over media reports not containing faculty advisors name. Also, we had installed a flex at IC Arena without permission. I, Ankit and Anuj went there. He screamed at us like a busted speaker. Anuj lost his thunder that day. 

Sumit - "Media wale call karenge toh aap kya karoge samajh gaye na?"
Anuj - "Haa sir, hum kuch nahi karenge, seedha call aap ko forward kar denge."

Sumit realized the sarcasm in his tone and immediately went to the Dean. We were again on the verge of getting the Hackathon closed. We cried a lot. I can never forget the innocent face of Ankit. We wrote an apology letter and everything was fine again.

Sponsorship

We went for a symposium organized by TnP where companies had arrived to talk about themselves. We requested each of them to help us with the sponsorship. All of them showed light. They were all positive. But none of them sponsored. Pooja, Ankit, Paritosh and I were sitting like ducklings, gazing at the HRs who were having their lunch at the TnP arena.

On 24th September, TEQIP declined sponsorship to Hack-A-BIT. They didn't have a penny to pay the professors. "What are you saying? We have your signatures on this papers". "I know, but I am not the one paying", said Mukhopadhyay. We experienced a landslide. We had nothing. TEQIP was supposed to pay for T-shirts, Food, Prize money, etc. Where were we supposed to bring so much money from?

We had to do something. We started talking to more companies. Some of us were even ready to put in our own money to make this event happen. EatMyNews was our next sponsor. They asked for too much data though. Hackerrank and Topcoder only sent us T-shirts and stickers. Codechef and Ubisoft helped us a lot in publicity but frankly speaking, they only gave stickers. .tech domain was a major sponsor as they provided the teams with free .tech domains (for each individual participants).

It was only a few days before the Hackathon that we received sponsorship from our title sponsor - Infotech Hub. They paid us a handsome amount and we no longer needed TEQIP to pay. We also got Techgig who again paid us a good amount for sponsorship. We got a lot of other sponsors like JetBrains, Cavins, Winkies, DigitalOcean etc who favoured us in kind.

Judges

Somewhere in the month of September, it also struck us who on earth would be the judges for the event. Koushik MLN, an alumnus of BIT Mesra, was highly impressed by the idea of the Hackathon. He had himself always tried to make such a thing possible at BIT Mesra. He got in touch with us. He texted us regularly and we decided to invite him as a judge. He also referred us to a lot of other people who helped us with sponsorship. 

In the meantime, Amitesh Anand of 366Pi had visited our campus. We asked him if he would be able to help us in any way or at least judge the event or at least being a speaker at the inauguration ceremony. He denied everything. We still can't figure out why he did that.

We told Koushik about this incident. He immediately assured us that Durga Gaddi Raju (founder of Itversity Inc.) would be coming up to judge the event on the second and third day. We were satisfied. We released their poster from the Facebook page. 

We were also required to maintain diversity among the judges. Koushik was an expert in Machine Learning and Data Science. Durga was expert in almost all the domains. We contacted one more senior Pratyush Agarwal (founder of CodeAsylum) as one of the judges. He was even willing to sponsor the event. 

Controversies aroused all throughout the campus when Pratyush was announced as a judge for the event. CodeAsylum was known for spreading the propaganda of coaching for placement. Everyone considered it a bad sign. We decided to have Pratyush as a judge on the condition that he won't be allowed to promote CodeAsylum.

And finally, in the month of October, Infotech Hub decided to send two people from their company who were also declared as a judge. Yes! If you can sponsor us, you are the judge for the Hackathon.

October Heat

The month of October has arrived. The teams have been selected. The event has been announced. The participants have booked their tickets. Everyone is ready to roll. But here we have some key problems again.

We don't have money to pay for T-shirts. We went through hell to convince TEQIP to take credit from the Accounts office to pay for the T-shirts. The permission was passed by Dean. TEQIP in-charge denied. We convinced him. He signed. Account office denied. We convinced them. Rather we begged them. We told them that if we don't pay now, the t-shirts won't be delivered on time. They agreed after a heated discussion over why Vajra gets preference over Hack-A-BIT. A cheque was finally issued. It went to the registrar for signature. Registrar signed. The cheque was immediately dispatched and t-shirts were delivered just 2 days before the Hackathon. Saviour!.

Publicity doesn't require attention now. But we have to spread the good buzz of the Hackathon. We asked our sponsors to prepare short videos for the event. Stuart from Hoolah was the first one to send us. Techgig was next. 

One of the most painful jobs was to think of accommodation for all the participants. Ankit, Satyarth and Anuj played a key role in that. We decided to choose Narayan Tent house to get the mattress and pillows for the participants. We were required to put them at Boys Hostel, Girls Hostel and RnD. The GST bills were again credited by TEQIP.

BIT has in time for girls at 8 PM. How can someone even organize a Hackathon in such a college? Ask us. We did it. Anuj proposed no in time for female participants, volunteers and organizers for 3 days to Mrs Vijay Laxmi. She denied. She told "This is impossible. Divide the 36 hours into three 12 hours session for 3 days". An argument started again. We cannot lose. We came so far. We have to do it. We talked to Dean SW. We talked to Alka mam. We talked to the security office. We talked to everyone. Finally, after several discussion, they agreed on the condition that girls won't be allowed to leave the RnD building unless escorted by the organizers. The organizers were held completely responsible for anything wrong that could have happened. We were also required to get written consent from the parents of all the female participants present in the hack arena. After submitting all the documents, we received a green signal from the college. The in time has been removed for the first time in the history of BIT Mesra.

About a week before the Hackathon, the biggest issues still revolving around us was the issue of the food facility. Ankit is completely credited for his efforts to arrange food. First, we talked to the mess committee. They denied. We talked to DSW. He told us to talk to AKHS. They were already occupied as they were serving the National Space Conference that was supposed to be held at the same time. We then thought of packed food. Failed. Too expensive. Finally, our beloved Dean came to action. He talked to ChefTalk, who was in charge of Hostel 3. The cost was Rs. 100 per participant per day. Both boys and girls were required to have their food at the same hostel itself.

A week before Hackathon

A WhatsApp group was created consisting of team leaders and core members to facilitate easy communication. All important messages for teams were put into that group.

Anuj, Anand and I decided to go to Ranchi to get T-shirts that arrived at the bus stand. It was morning at 7 AM. We got permission from the transport department to use the institute's transport. We also got the permission to get 2 two-wheelers inside the campus during the Hackathon. The truck was loaded with T-shirts and Anand took them back to the campus. I got my bike from my home and went to pickup Ashank. We went to Kailash store to pack up stationery products, id cards and booklets for the event. Everything took 4 hours to be packed up. The settlement was to be done later. Next, we went to a Digital print shop to print stickers and event plan that was to be distributed. Everything was packed up and carried back by bus.

Next day, I again came to Ranchi to buy missing hardware products from Prayog Tech. It took me 3 hours to get the exact part and the discounted price. I made several calls to the teams to confirm the exact part number. Later I met Anuj and we travelled to two far situated ends of Ranchi to give invitations for Chief Guest. Typing invitations for Chief Guest was a headache. We have to write a letter, then get it approved by VC which took about 2 days. Any rejection led us to repeat the process again. We finally had an invitation letter in our hand. We went to Central Secretariat to invite an IAS officer and ended up inviting Umesh Yadav (Director). Next, we went to  DC office to invite SSP. We came back to the main road to get the trophies packed. Anuj paid them from his pocket. We had submitted some more flex for print. We collected them from Sai Ads. Carrying all these things, we went back to the campus.

The tech team was also under great pressure during this time. We were required to send automated emails to all the participants from time to time to keep them updated with the Hackathon. A GitHub account was created for the Hackathon and all the repositories of all the teams were initialized. Zulip was integrated. Each participant as added to their respective GitHub repositories. 2 days before the hackathon, the network department denied the availability of the high-speed Internet. We somehow convinced them to provide the maximum possible. We received a bandwidth of about 1 Gbps.

An entire day went by in deciding the accommodation for judges. We made several rounds of the registrar office to get the permission of Guest House to accommodate the judges. Every time, they presented a different cost for each Guest and we were trying to save as much as possible. Sanjay Shukla helped us in getting the final accommodation for judges.

A night before, after bringing all the flexes, it was the time to call up all the members to put up flex all around the RnD building and the surrounding. Sponsor flex was hanged from the window of RnD building. It took 5 hours to put up everything. Also, we asked the electricity department to fix up all the lights in the RnD building especially the washroom lights. All the washrooms were cleaned.

20 teams were finally selected from BIT and we decided to save some time. Registration and goodies distribution for teams from BIT was done 2 days before the start of Hackathon. We also prepared the files, food coupons, goodies for each of the participants. We also prepared judging sheet, host's speech, Dean's and Associate Dean's speech, short rule book etc just one night before the Hackathon.

No matter how much you have planned something, there is always something that you miss and later pay for it. Hack-A-BIT clashed with National Space Conference organized the space department. Obviously, now the CAT hall and all the seminar halls were under them for the next week. We requested them permission to use the hall whenever it was not used by them. We changed the schedule of the Hackathon to fit them right.

It was also during this time, I met the greatest villain of BIT Mesra,  Dean of Academic Programs - Mrs Padmini Padmanabhan. She was the controller of Room no. 208 and 211, the largest lecture rooms. We got permission from her. We also requested her to cancel all the classes on Friday, at least for RnD building. She denied all our plea.

A Hackathon cannot take place without caffeine in the blood of the programmers. We needed a coffee machine. We went through hell to arrange one. Also, Hackathons are long and tiring. We arranged medications, first aid and other facilities for the participants from the dispensary. One ambulance was always available at our disposal.

Also, just one day before the Hackathon, invitations were printed and sent to all the faculty members, administrative staffs and club presidents for the opening ceremony of Hack-A-BIT.

Day 1

All core members were at RnD building for the registration. Teams started arriving the campus. The mattress ordered from Narayan Tent House reached in the morning. We started installing them at Hostels and RnD. Teams were accommodated one by one by Satyarth. They were then asked to reach RnD for registration. Team file, goodies and food coupons were distributed to them.

An hour before the opening ceremony, both our chief guests denied their presence because of some priority. We were shaken. We invited Sumit from Jharkhand Innovation Lab as the chief guest of the ceremony and he immediately agreed. Saviour! The opening ceremony started. Speeches were delivered. Special thanks to Dhwani Music Club for their mesmerizing performance of BIT prayer. Rohan hosted the inauguration ceremony. Rules were read out aloud. The ceremony ended with a lecture session by Kushagra, a judge sent by Infotech Hub who gave the participants some basics of Blockchain. The teams were escorted for Dinner. 

We cleared the CAT Hall immediately as the space conference was about to begin. Anuj took the responsibility to manage the dining for the participants. Good food as served to them. Anuj took their attendance and reported the status to the faculty advisors. On the other hand, we rushed to RnD. We had to set up all the labs. It was Friday, we were not allowed to touch the labs until evening. We unplugged all the computers. We stored the mouse and the keyboard in a hidden chamber. We pushed the monitors and cabinets against the wall. We made a lot of space for the teams. We were not permitted to move even a single PC. But for the sake of respect the BIT had, we had to do it. After all it as a National Level Hackathon.

The Hackathon began at the right schedule. Koushik and Pratyush went around to evaluate ideas of teams and suggests some changes. We brought snacks from the resource room and distributed them at midnight. It turned out that all Winkies cake were non-veg. We had no money to buy any more snacks. We somehow managed with biscuits.

Day 2

Day 2 was much less exciting than Day 1. Thanks to Ankit from Robolution for coming up and helping us with the Hardware projects. Durga arrived at noon. He had a great personality and motivated everyone to complete their projects. We had more guest lecture session. Everyone was motivated to win. 

Team whack had a special demand. They asked for some sound converter (compatible with Raspbian OS) that made me and Ashank spend almost 4 hours at Ranchi to search for it. 

The mid evaluation started at about 2 PM and continued till 6 PM. Kushagra smoked every 20 minutes which greatly delayed the evaluation. 

It is worth mentioning that K16 contributed a lot during the Hackathon. It would have never been possible without them. All the teams were interviewed and their experience was asked on Day 2.

Day 3

Code evaluation started at midnight. The tech team reviewed at least 1 lac lines of codes that night. The codes were checked for the originality of implementation. Also, at 2 AM, we created a google sheet with automated scoring, normalization and totalling for fast end evaluation and selection of top 10 teams for presentation.

All the teams were required to push their final commits by 10 AM. End evaluation started at 8 AM. The hackathon got extended by 1 and a half hours. Thanks to Kushagra who wanted to smoke time and again.

We wrapped up at 11:30 AM. The CAT hall was set up again for the final presentation and all the participants were served with Brunch. Top 10 teams were announced. I had a hard time getting the teams set up for their presentation. For some, the cable didn't work. Some were required to demonstrate their hardware. We somehow wrapped up the presentations by 1 PM. Scores were totalled again. We invited Rajeev Gupta sir as the chief guest of the closing ceremony. He had sponsored the cost of all the flexes for Hack-A-BIT. He delivered a beautiful speech. The final result was announced. The hackathon ended. Dean SW was extremely satisfied. I had never seen him being so happy. 

I would also extend a warm thanks to NAPS for covering the entire event and sending all the reports to the media houses. Hack-A-BIT received huge publicity. It became a well known national event.

Post Hackathon

Obviously, it was not over yet. We had to rearrange the CAT hall back. We had to rearrange the computers back in the lab (3 mice, 1 keyboard went missing and 1 monitor was broken). We had to escort each of the judges back to the airport (used institute's transport facility). We had to escort the participants back (arranged bus facility for them). We had to settle all the bills (Thank god we only had GST bills. All the bills were cleared within a month). We had to send travel reimbursement to everyone (took us over 20 days post the hackathon to calculate the amount and send to them). Finally, we had to settle all credits of TEQIP (done by 9th December). Hack-A-BIT batch photography took place on 23rd November. It was a day to remember. We had made the impossible possible after all.

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