My hackathon experience in WomENcourage by Gunay Abdullayeva

This month, we are hosting Gunay Abdullayeva, who got her master’s degree at the University of Tartu, Estonia, and specialized in Data Mining, Machine Learning, Neural Networks. Read about Gunay’s journey in computing so far and the amazing experience she had at womENcourage 2019 Hackathon in Rome.

Hi all,

The purpose of this blog is to give you some insights into the womENcourage conference and share with you my experience. WomENcourage is an ACM Europe Celebration of Women in Computing which aims to connect women from different technical backgrounds, and encourage them to continue their education and career in computing. Each year, the event takes place in different countries and, last year it was organised in Rome, Italy. To attend the event, women can apply for a scholarship of 500 euros. There are two main rules to be eligible for the scholarship. First, you should be an undergraduate or a postgraduate student, and the second one is that you should participate in the hackathon or present posters at womENcourage. Luckily, I got the scholarship as a hackathon participant to attend the conference. There is a detailed description of the rules of the hackathon in the womENcourage website. The application deadline usually is in May or June and the event is in September.

In this blog, I would like to talk specifically about my hackathon experience. After applying for the scholarship, I’ve got positive feedback in July. Then, the organizers notified me about the four possible challenges and to choose at least two of them to compete on. The challenges were:

  • Circular Economy Award
  • Enabling Sustainable Cities through Blockchain
  • Artificial Intelligence and Welfare Award
  • Work-life Balance and Smart Working

Even though there was not that much detail about the challenges, I chose the Circular Economy Award and the Artificial Intelligence and Welfare Award as they seemed more interesting than others. Then, I got a notification that I have been chosen to compete in the Circular Economy Award challenge. Afterwards we were allocated to teams and we received the information about the other team members. There were three other girls in my team:

  • Me — Gunay Abdullayeva from Azerbaijan. I’ve got my masters degree in Computer Science from the University of Tartu, Estonia.
  • Ulvia Jafarli from Azerbaijan has gotten her bachelors degree in Computer Science from the ADA University, Azerbaijan.
  • Cristina Angelone from Italy is studying her master’s degree in Sapienza University, Italy.
  • Amani Boughanmi from Tunisia is studying for her PhD degree.

Before the hackathon, we’ve reached out to get to know each other. I think that is an important step of being in a team. The Circular Economy Award challenge asked us to come up with a solution to decrease consumption and make the consumption circular.

Our idea was to create a mobile application and we have thought about several different problems:

  • In Italy, there is no plastic bottle recycling system. One idea was to add a bottle recycling feature to the application. In this case, there should be a third party which gets bottles and the user gets some coins in the application in return.
  • Another feature was to add a reuse feature. This feature enables its users giving away some items (like t-shirt, bag or etc.) that they do not want to throw as they are still usable e.g. do not have any damage. So, users add their items to the application and other users can see the available items and can request them.
  • The final idea was to add the search feature where you can search for different possible ideas about alternative uses for items e.g. you can use the plastic bottle as a pot.

So these were our proposed ideas for the challenge. We created a demo mobile application and had a presentation at the end to which all the team members contributed. The feedback from the jury was quite positive and we were delighted to hear that we were the winning team! As a reward, we got the three-days free entry for the conference SingularityU Italy Summit 2020. All costs (accommodation, and flight) were covered by the company Eni.

As a closing remark, I would encourage you to believe in yourself, apply to attend in womENcourage. Never give up, and create your story!

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