An Unacclimated Opportunity: Smart India Hackathon'20
Smart India Hackathon (SIH) is one of the most prestigious and nationwide competition for young minds across the country. It is an initiative to provide students with a platform to solve some of the pressing problems we face in our daily lives, and thus inculcate a culture of product innovation and a mindset of problem-solving. The SIH is a 36-hour non-stop digital product building competition for software edition organised jointly by the Ministry of Education (previously MHRD) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
SIH has risen to primal importance in the World of hackathons and mass Innovative Solutions as it provides innovative out-of-the-box solutions to companies and government in a cost-effective way, annexing to the growth of the country. It also helps in National Recognition and visibility for companies across all premier institutions in India making it World's Biggest Open Innovation Movement Opportunity to work with some of the best talents in the country for the companies.
The 2020 edition of SIH saw a revamp in its participation procedure. It was observed by the organisers that in the last three editions of SIHs there were many underperforming teams in the main event. Therefore, this year it was recommended to all the participating institutes to first conduct hackathons at the institute level. The institute's single point of contact (SPOC) is responsible for conducting internal campus hackathon. The first five winners from each institute would then be eligible to apply for SIH 2020 through the SPOC on the SIH portal. The SPOC is also required to choose two additional teams as waitlisted teams. Out of the five selected teams, four can be selected from blocked problem statements & one can be chosen for Student Innovation category. The institute is also expected to submit a report of the hackathon held in their college.
The recently held SIH Software Edition 2020 Finale saw teams from various IITs and NITs securing praises and awards. However, there was No Participation from NIT Rourkela this year.
Team Monday Morning approached Prof. Sumanta Pyne of the department of Computer Science and Engineering, the registered single point of contact (SPOC) from our institute to share his insights on the matter.
Monday Morning (MM): In the recently held Smart India Hackathon Finale, many IITs & NITs bagged positions. However, our institute students did not participate in the hackathon. According to you, what were the major reasons due to which our students could not participate in the competition?
Prof. Sumanta Pyne (SP): There were a lot of reasons for which our students couldn't participate in SIH. One of the primary reasons being the communication gap created and absence of students during pandemic situations. Since no prior notices were created, and students approached us at the last moment, there was a problem created in participating.
MM: According to students, the major reason for not participating was lack of awareness regarding this competition. How does the institute aim to resolve this problem in future?
SP: We plan to conduct meetings prior to three months and prepare so that no last moment chaos is created. Also, release notices for the teams in the coming years to make sure students participate in the competition.
MM: As per the guidelines issued by SIH organising committee, it recommends for an internal campus hackathon conducted by SPOC. However, there was no such event held in our institute. What were the primary reasons for it and how the problem is aimed to be tackled in future?
SP: Hopefully, we would look into this to conduct an internal hackathon among our students since it's a national level prestigious competition.
Team Monday Morning also caught up with students who aimed at participating in the competition but unfortunately could not. Aatish Rana, a final year student, had the following to say regarding the SIH 2020.
Monday Morning (MM): Since SIH is a national level prestigious competition, yet most of our students lack awareness. Can you please tell us more about the importance of this competition?
Aatish Rana (AR): Smart India Hackathon is a highly reputed competition organised by Government of India (GOI). It provides an excellent opportunity for students to apply their skills at the industry level. The GOI notifies the ministries, PSU's, government and private organisations to prepare a set of problem statements, which are then reviewed and selected. They are then put up on the official website. Subsequently, the student registration starts. Students can choose problem statements of their choice and come up with innovative solutions.
MM: What were the problems you faced due to which your participation in SIH was dropped?
AR: Earlier in November, we came to know that there would be a competition, and we have to prepare small teams for it. Almost 15 students were ready to be part of this. However, we did not get any information about the release of problem statements. And later in January, it came to our knowledge that the problem statements were out, and we had to start working on them. One crucial thing which we missed was there had to be an internal campus hackathon organised by the SPOC who would, later on, register the winners on the SIH portal.
The college administration had not known about SPOC and internal campus hackathon until it was too late. Secondly, there was a lack of awareness about it among the student community. Students had little or no information about it.
MM: Did you approach any authority regarding this matter and if yes, when and what was their response?
AR: Upon knowing about the requirement of SPOC and internal hackathon, we approached Asst. Registrar. He said that they did not have any information regarding the competition. A few days later, we approached Dean Academics, Prof. S.K Patel regarding the same. He also said that they didn't have any information related to it. We contacted them again after a few days, but they still had no information. Around the end of January, our team captain Malkhan Singh told us that he got to know that Prof. Sumanta Pyne from CSE Department is the SPOC for SIH 2020. We tried contacting him on the same day but could not. Two days later we called him, and he said that we could come up with the proposal and he would register us to the website. At that point of time, we too were not ready with our full drafted proposals with all the required specialisations. So it was almost cancelled for us.
MM: According to you, what can be done to ensure large participation of our institute's students at such reputed competitions in future?
AR: As this competition is organised yearly, the institute should appoint a SPOC. Once the notification is released, the institute must ensure that everyone is aware of the competition. There should be a group email regarding the information so that more teams can prepare and participate.
Our institute students have participated in various privately organised hackathons such as of Myntra, Flipkart, to name a few and have bought laurels to the institute. Perhaps our institute students are not able to participate in this particular hackathon due to lack of awareness.
NIT Rourkela is one of India's premier institutes with the best minds across the country. In the coming years, we hope awareness is created among the students regarding such a prestigious national level competition and that laurels grace this institute.