The First Hackathon at PNU (Princess Noura University) advertized across PNU CCIS

The first hackathon at Princess Noura University (PNU) took place in the Computer and Information Sciences (CCIS) department on April 14-17, 2016. PNU is the largest university in the world for women. The CCIS department alone has 3500 students. The 4 day hackathon was sponsored by IBM and included the use of IBM Watson Services (cognitive computing) in the hackathon apps. ArabWIC (Arab Women in Computing) Saudi also supported and publicized the event. The hackathon was led and conducted by Dr Amal Khalifa assisted by her graduation year students. About 40 students competed in the hackathon. The hashtag used was #PNU_IBMBluemix, there was an accompanying blog, and the theme of the event was:

  • LearnDay 1
  • InnovateDays 2 & 3
  • ShareDay 4
The Four Day Agenda for the Hackathon at PNU

After gaining approvals to conduct the hackathon, contestant registration was opened in April, and the event was publicized with a deadline for applicants of April 11. The applicants were organized into 8 teams of 4 or 5. Day 1, April 14, arrived very quickly. Graduation year students presented IBM Bluemix and its Watson (cognitive computing) services and mentored the contestants. Some of the PNU mentors had gained hackathon experience by participating in a hackathon held at King Saud University in November 2015. Some the business studies department students at PNU also participated in Day 1 by presenting their IBM Watson projects, to inspire the hackathon participants. The teams then embarked on defining their hackathon projects and the services they would use. Services incorporated included Alchemy, text to speech, natural language classifier, tone analyser, push notification API, and single signon.

Badges for the Judges

The contestants worked through the weekend learning Bluemix and developing their ideas, working together collaboratively on the Internet.

On Day 4, April 17, the teams started working on the final presentations they would deliver to the judges. IBMer Abeer AlRaee advised the students on their presentations. The judges, including me, gathered in PNU CCIS, around noon on Day 4. The contestants were working intensely amid all the other activities that were happening that day, e.g., the student career fair, the graduation posters and projects on display. There were speeches and awards ceremonies, so the atmosphere was buzzing.

The contestants presented the following wonderful projects to the judges who were Maha Dulaim (IBM), Dr Maryam al Hajouny (PNU), Dr Areej Al-Wabil (KACST & MIT), Dr Zuhaira Zain (PNU) and me :

  • Kids Tracker: An app to keep in contact with children wearing a bracelet
  • AnaMedia: An app to support shopping (where and when to buy) – AnaMedia means I am media
  • BeIntelligent: An app to help you develop your intelligence after testing you
  • HelpmeHelp: An app to match people who want to volunteer with non-profits who need volunteers
  • Quokka: An app to help others understand your current mood and make you happier
  • Discover: An app to provide detailed information from photos of food, e.g., recipes, restaurants that serve, nutrition

The final presentations were engaging and the students strongly identified with their projects, and wanted to work on them beyond the hackathon itself. The judges had a difficult time selecting the winners, but Dr Amal Alkhalifa kept the judges on track with evaluation forms that each judge had to fill in for each team covering creativity and idea, app experience, feasibility for implementation. Moreover, the evaluation forms were anonymous. The winning teams were Quokka, HelpmeHelp, and Kids Tracker.

A slide from Kids Tracker Presentation

The full list of PNU Bluemix Hackathon team members is:

  • Team 1: Malak Khalid AlGhanim, Ebtesam Saleh Alkhalaf, Najla Saleh Alsaikhan, ALHANOUF MAJED ALSAIED
  • Team 2: Eman Al Habashi, Bayan Alnajjar, Noor Shaker, Buthainah Alsurmi
  • Team 3: Maha Alrashed, Badreh Abdullah, Wadha Alsaber, Maha Alromih, Huda Alshhrani
  • Team 4: Sarah Al Awwad, Fai Algannas, Reem Abdulrhman Albutti, Waad Alzahrani
  • Team 5: Maysoon Ahmed, Rahaf Almadani, Rand Mosen Za’atar, Rama Jamal Akkad
  • Team 6: Fatimah Alsaaigh, Noor Baghazi, Afrah alshammri, Eman Alharbi, Salma Aledily
  • Team 7: Mashael AlZaid, Budoor AlGhamlas, Taghreed Alshammari, Raghad Almarri
  • Team 8: Noor Baghazi, Afrah Alshammri, Eman Alharbi, Salma Aledily

Many congratulations to all the participating teams. We are so proud of you all. Many thanks to Dean of PNU CCIS, Dr Sahar Shabana, for supporting this activity, & to Dr Amal Khalifa for leading the hackathon. We look forward to further news from the students on their projects, and more hackathons at PNU.

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