2018: Hackathons I went to and what I built

In 2018, I went to 2 hackathons (YC October hackathon and Science Hack Day) as a hacker and 2 hackathons as a speaker and judge (CryptoChicks and Violet Hacks).

YC October Hackathon 

I didn’t like YC hackathon one bit. Too many businesspeople and product managers pitching their ambitious sounding ideas and making simple prototypes in InvisionApp or worse, Powerpoint presentation. Only about 25% of the attendees were actually technical people. I ended up joining a team building software to count cells in a photo for biologists. We built a very simple iOS app that would return a photo marked with white circles around a photo (using OpenCV). 

Science Hack Day

Absolutely loved Science Hack Day! Wonderful people, brilliant ideas, working prototypes, and my team won a prize!

I had a few project ideas but I decided that the best idea would be to join a great team working on either brain-computer interfaces or autonomous vehicles so I could learn from people who’ve been working in the fields for longer. After much searching around, I decided to join the team working on making two autonomous RC cars and mess around with them with swapped inputs (like car B acting on car A’s input). I liked the people and the project idea! The hackathon started with a few talks by some amazing speakers like Helen Lurie (who works at Lyft Level 5 self-driving car division), Lenore Edman from Evil Mad Scientist, and Indre Viskontas. 

After the talks, we got to work. We started out buying two RC cars and started dismantling them so we could control its motors with an Arduino. After that, I started working on an iOS app that’d be the “eyes” of the cars. The camera input would be classified (I used the ResNet50 model through CoreML) and we selected a few objects we were going to put on the track of the cars and I wrote a simple conditional that’d send a Boolean value 1 to the backend if an obstacle was detected and Boolean value 0 if none were. The backend communicated with the Arduino controlling the motors. By the end of Day 1, we had an almost working car. We decided to pivot to make just one car that’s autonomous instead of the original plan of two cars. 

Day 2 was all the presentations. We presented and our demo worked for 2 obstacles but failed at the third one because the battery died. But since the project worked, they awarded us “Best in Public Safety”!  

Some photos! 

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Our project: an autonomous RC car that uses a smartphone camera for obstacle detection
Image may contain: 9 people, including Jeff Catania and Meng Shang, people smiling, people standing
After being awarded! 🙂

For 2019, I have Developer’s Camp, TreeHacks, and Science Hack Day on my calendar! If you have any suggestions for hackathons I should go to or if you’d like to hack with me, let me know at harshita@harshitaapps.com!