SIH2020- Our Journey Through the Odds

Smart India Hackathon is a nationwide 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.

As I, along with a few of my friends, volunteered at SIH2019 in our college, we were all so excited and enthralled by the sight of such a large hack arena and the atmosphere there, that we decided that we would surely participate and try our best to win in SIH2020. As time passed by, and the application period approached, we formed a group of 6 people, namely Team Alpha- Pragati Verma(Team leader), Rajat Verma, Rohit Agnihotri, Shristi Singh, Abhinav Pratap Singh, and Paurush Tiwari. The next big challenge was to choose the apt problem statement; we all sat down and after scrolling hundreds of them, we finally narrowed down to MK95 by Government Of Uttarakhand. The problem statement was —

National Web Portal used for designing Job oriented courses with the help of Human Resource data and desirable skill sets from industries. Design a system to read the job description from the pdf and word document provided by government officials. Provide the facility to review and edit the generated job description and publish it on the portal. This portal should also provide the facility to apply for jobs and further management of the interview and selection process.

Our spirits were really high, and we didn’t want to lose such an opportunity; so we started with research. After compiling a set of a considerable amount of stats and information about the problems in the modern government recruitment process, we moved on to planning the workflow of our prototype application. We were taking baby steps to ensure that we don’t go wrong anywhere or do not end up missing the details in the thought process.

Team Alpha in Internal Hackathon for SIH2020

Afterward, we started working on the prototype almost before a week of the Internal Hackathon(within college campus), which was the first step to qualify for SIH. We named it - AWSAR, it is a platform that connects government organizations and potential job seekers under one single domain, accompanied by a number of features to ease the process, dedicated to fulfilling every kind of needs of recruiters and job seekers.

We did just fine in the evaluations, but somehow, we didn’t make it. We were rejected. We ended up in tears, looking for answers where we went wrong. It wasn’t the defeat, just the reasons that were troubling us.

However, our journey didn’t end here. We found the last ray of hope when we found this LinkedIn post:

And then, one day, amidst my class, I received a call from our SPOC saying that Congratulations Team Alpha, you have made it to SIH 2020. We were all so thrilled that we were not even able to believe it as we heard it. But we had no time to celebrate, we just had a day to complete our application, and submit out presentation and proposal. I can still remember how we all had to bunk our classes and we made the final changes outside the lab while sitting on the stairs with our fingers crossed. We were about to submit the application, but there was something wrong, our team name was already taken and thus, we had to think of a new name instantaneously. After arguing for almost 10mins, Shristi and Rajat came up with our new identity: Team Hashtag.

The results came up almost after one or two weeks, and as we checked the website, all we wished for was good news, and eventually, we earned it. We booked our tickets, planned a small trip, even designed our t-shirts. However, another obstacle came up called COVID-19, and SIH2020 was postponed. We were all left confused and hopeless. Dates were decided once but were postponed again. In the entire scenario, we didn’t want to give up the thought of participating in SIH, we didn’t want it to be canceled like all other events around us. SIH was much more than a mere hackathon to us, it was our chance to prove our worth, we worked so hard for it that we didn’t want to go into vain.

As chances of COVID going away were less, finally SIH decided to go for an online hackathon from 1st-3rd August 2020. Everyone was so sure that we were about to miss a lot of fun and experience that an onsite event could have offered, but to us, it wasn’t the time to complain, but the time to improvise and build again. We started again, almost 2 weeks before the event, but this time it wasn’t that easy a nut to crack, we had to deal with a lot more challenges - working from home, in faraway cities, sometimes with terrible net connectivity. Not everyone onboard had an experience with GitHub and Slack, but we had to get over these offsets if we wanted to go big.

However, our journey would have been incomplete without our mentors — Vinit Shahdeo and Kumar Rohit Chandra. They were the backbone of the team since they joined us, not only did they help us think beyond our horizons, but they also made us see the hope inside us that we could win SIH. Rohit sir helped us to improve a lot over UI/UX while Vinit sir made us focus on the presentation as well as the features that we could offer. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that they pushed us in the right direction, meanwhile, making us learn the tricks behind a great product and how to take it beyond the purpose of winning a hackathon to actually captivating minds and delivering great results.

SIH2020 Mentors — Team Hashtag

The hackathon was all new, there wasn’t a thing that we could ignore because we haven’t seen anything like this before. Our nodal center was Graphic Era University, Dehradun. They added us to Slack and WhatsApp groups, and hence, it began. We were informed about our slots of evaluation and mentoring sessions about 2–3 hours ago, and we were required to join the given google meet links, present our screens, and explain our idea. We went through 3 mentoring sessions and 4 evaluation rounds in total in a span of 3 days. We tried our best to implement everything that was suggested in the mentoring session, and thus, they all went really well, except the last round of evaluation.

The results were to be announced on 5th August 2020 but due to sudden changes in plan, the results were preponed to 4th August 2020. We were all calm till the clock struck 5 PM on that day, the results were about to be out, and we were all going insane at the thought of losing just because of that last round of evaluation. Results came out as a youtube video at approx 6:15 PM, and I literally could not think of anything else other than to hear the words - and the winner for MK95 is Team Hashtag, from JSS Academy Of Technical Education, Noida.

A screenshot from the SIH2020 Results video from Graphic Era University

Finally, we won SIH 2020 and all I did for the next 5 minutes was to replay that video again and again just to make sure I am not dreaming. That was such a happy moment for all of us. We went crazy in those 2 weeks, we had over a hundred google meet meetings, slept just 3–4 hours each night, perhaps the hardest we have worked for anything in our little lives.

SIH 2020 Winners - Team Hashtag (MK-95)

Although this isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of a new trend #TeamHashtag. There are many more achievements to come, many more milestones to thread.

To know more about the project, have a look at our Presentation.

If you enjoyed reading our way through Smart India Hackathon then do let us know your views in the comments. In case you want to connect with me, follow the links below:

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Writing what should not be forgotten!