Sabaragamuwa University’s LetMeHack inter-university hackathon returned for the second time on 1st and 2nd of February. This time there was a twist: the hackathon was 100% eco-friendly. Proudly claiming it to be “Sri Lanka’s first ever eco-friendly hackathon”, the organizers managed to host a wonderful event without using any single use plastics/polythenes.
The department of Computing and Information Systems, fondly called CIS, organized the event through their Society Of Computer Sciences. The event took place at Sabaragamuwa University premises in Belihuloya, a truly scenic area covered with misty mountains and lush green landscape.
Hacking for the planet
The organizers dedication to making the event eco-friendly was seen in every little detail. Even the invitation cards were made embedded with plant seeds so that if thrown away, it will grow into a tree. Instead of plastic water bottles, stylish glass bottles closed with a cork were provided. Every decoration, food wrapping, and even name tags were given careful consideration to fit into the theme. There was not a single polythene bag or wrapper to be seen throughout the event. The organizers took on a tough but timely challenge, and they overcame it successfully, setting an example for other events of this nature.
The hacking begins
During the opening ceremony, the president of the Society of Computer Sciences, Sathira Umesh, explained the motivation behind the theme and the goal of the hackathon. There were speeches by the sponsors as well. LetMeHack Eco was sponsored by Omobio (pvt) Ltd as the gold sponsor, CodeGen International as the silver sponsor, and LiveRoom (pvt) Ltd as the bronze sponsor. The competition structure was explained and the contestants were escorted to a nearby hall where all the hacking was going to take place.
The competition structure remained largely similar to LetMeHack 1.0 held in 2018. A frontend was provided by the organizers, and the contestants had to build a backend. 20 teams were present in the finals, who worked on challenges presented via GitHub issues. Periodically, test cases were run and marks were given to the contestants. These scores were displayed in real-time via the LetMeHack Eco mobile app.
There was a host of mentors to help the contestants with any problems. These mentors represented industry-leading companies such as Sysco Labs, 99X Technology, Bhasha and Arimac. There were also representatives from FOSS Sri Lanka Community, Mozilla Sri Lanka, as well as GitHub Campus Experts. A lot of CIS alumni were present as well, showing their support to the organizers. The hackathon seemed to get the attention of many industry leaders, which says a lot.
Not your traditional hackathon
LetMeHack Eco included a tree-planting event as well. As a symbol of their dedication to the cause, the organizers, judges, mentors, and sponsors got together to plant several trees. As these trees grow, they will stand as a reminder of Sri Lanka’s first ever eco friendly hackathon.
Just like in the first LetMeHack, once the hacking was finished everyone participated in a campfire. Everyone including the mentors and contestants had a great time singing and dancing around the fire. They were then treated to a delicious snack, prepared by the students of CIS. The campfire did a great job of relieving the tiredness and stress of staying up overnight.
The closing ceremony
The closing ceremony and awards distribution took place next. Team Brogrammers from the University of Moratuwa emerged as the winners, bagging the cash prize of Rs. 50,000. Second place was awarded to Team Wimax, also from the University of Moratuwa. The third place was won by Team </Green> from Vavuniya Campus of University of Jaffna. The second and third places were given cash prizes of Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 20,000 respectively. With that, LetMeHack Eco came to a conclusion.
LetMeHack Eco was a tremendous challenge to undertake, but Sabaragamuwa University students tackled it wonderfully. In doing so, Sabaragamuwa University’s CIS set a standard that most university hackathons should strive to achieve. Taking care of the planet is everyone’s responsibility, and LetMeHack Eco showed that even a hackathon, which is an event of very technical nature, can contribute to this. It was innovative and exciting and neatly executed. Let us hope that LetMeHack Eco’s message was received, and that the Sri Lankan IT community will respond by going towards the green in future events.