Inclusive STEM Hackathon

Organised by I-Stem in collaboration with EHRC, IIIT Bangalore, Vision Aid, Vision Empower and XRCVC

About Inclusive STEM Hackathon

Inclusive STEM Hackathon is a 24-hour hackathon where blind and visually impaired developers, industry professionals and CS students come together to work on exciting and challenging problems. The aim of the hackathon is to sensitize the engineers from potential IT companies as also the wider company mindset on the functioning and efficiency of persons with blindness and low vision by working together on the project, while also allowing the participants with disabilities an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals.

Unlike several other hackathons, the hackathon does not strictly enforce working on accessibility-related projects. The final projects must be accessible for people with disabilities though. This requirement ensures that participants understand accessibility hands-on, and can bring it back to their respective organisations.

Besides coding for 24 Hrs., the hackathon is also a platform for blind participants to network with company representatives (such as HR representatives and hiring managers) to share their interests, aspirations and challenges in the recruitment process or once at job. This learning in turn can help companies evaluate their policies and improve them if needed.

Inclusive Stem Hackathon 2018

The first Inclusive Stem Hackathon was organised at IIIT bangalore on 20th and 21st January 2018, and was attended by 25 blind and visually impaired students, industry professionals from 11 tech companies and IIITB students.

Quick facts

  • A total of 12 teams of 5 members each hacked on projects of their choice with the aim being that the end product should be accessible for people with disabilities. all teams were made up of 2 persons with blindness or low vision, 2 industry professionals and 1 IIIT-B sighted student.
  • The event was attended by 25 visually impaired participants from across the country. These participants are either currently studying at premier tech schools such as IITs, NITs, IIITs, NSIT etc., or are working at leading tech companies such as Microsoft and other startups.
  • visually impaired participants were provided training in web development, android programming and basics of machine learning (NLP, computer vision and deep learning) by I-Stem and Kepler Lab, SapientRazorship. Some of them were also previously trained by our partners Vision Aid in Python programming. Students also received soft skills mentoring and resume help, thanks to Vision Aid and its mentors.
  • 23 sighted engineers from 11 Tech companies including Deutsche Bank, Honeywell, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, Mindtree, Oracle, Salesforce, Sasken, TCS, Uber and Wipro participated. These engineers ranged from new grad software engineers to technical architects, and brought a variety of skills such as data science, Android or IOS programming etc.
  • Prof. S. Sadagopan(Director, IIIT Bangalore), Mr. Ajay Seth, IAS (Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Dept., Govt. of Karnataka), Dr. Y.S. Rajan (Honorary Distinguished Professor, Indian Space Research Organization) and Dr. Chieko Asakawa (IBM Fellow) shared their perspective at the inaugural event.
  • In addition to the Hackathon, over the two days the event hosted a panel discussion on Disability and Tech. Seven distinguished panelists including representatives from Dell, Google, Microsoft, Wipro, Adobe, Mphasis and V-Shesh shared their opinions on product accessibility and recruitment and retention of employees with disabilities in the tech industry.
  • Several company representatives, including HR managers and hiring managers, attended the event and interacted with the participants, both to understand their perspective and to consider them for technical positions. Several participants received interview requests during or soon after the event which resulted in internship offers.

Hackathon projects

Teams focused on a wide range of problems-from currency identification for the blind to land registration using blockchain technology, from an app to help model UN delegates using text summarisation to realtime object detection. Here are brief descriptions of projects that the participants worked on.

  • Team1 developed an online platform to find suitable volunteers to record audio books. This can be extended to find volunteers for other services as well.
  • Team2 worked on a Twitter trend finder using Twitter APIs and NLP techniques.
  • Team3 addressed outdoor navigation with the ability to record routes and mark specific points of interests.
  • Team4 worked on currency identification for the blind which is especially useful after Demonetization, since the identifying features to distinguish currency by the blind are no longer available.
  • Team5 implemented an app that provides detailed information about places around the user in an accessible interface.
  • Team6 developed an app to help Model UN delegates by not only scraping credible websites and providing a schedule of popular MUN conferences, but also leveraging state-of-the-art text summarisation research.
  • Team7 implemented a novel land registration system using blockchain technology.
  • Team8 worked on realtime object detection system using computer vision techniques.
  • To encourage math and science in young children, team9 worked on a math quiz game for elementary school students with extensive customisation for both students and their teachers.
  • Team10 combined their knowledge in computer vision and NLP to identify objects in an image, determine relationship between them and return a description of this relationship.
  • Team11 implemented a novel game of snakes and ladders with Harry Potter.
  • Team12 developed an app to rate and review accessibility features in public places.

I-Stem is currently working with some of these teams to take these projects forward.

Results

Congratulations to our winners!

First prize: team 10-Rishabh Jain (IIT Roorkee), Rutwik Ravi Teja Vempati (IIT Madras), Aman Datta (Honeywell), Ramakrishna Kulkarni (Wipro), Mayank Senani (IIIT Bangalore)

Second prize: team 11-Manjot Singh (DPS Gurgaon), Harsha HD (Bangalore University), Abhijit Dasgupta (Honeywell), Sai Krishna (Juniper Networks), Mohammad Khalid (IIIT Bangalore)

Third prize: team 4-Kartik Sawhney (Stanford University), Abhishek Agarwal (Securities and Exchange Board of India), Sidharth Raja (Uber), Shashidhar Gurumurthy (Salesforce), Tarun pandey (IIIT Bangalore)

In the media

The hackathon was covered by Deccan Herald.

Participant reflections

Two participants wrote blogs describing their experience. Read them here and here.

Inclusive STEM hackathon 2019

Does the idea of an inclusive hackathon sound exciting to you? Are you a blind or visually impaired developer from India, an industry professional based in bangalore, or a company representative who would want to participate in the hackathon next year? Sign up for I-Stem updates and we will be sure to let you know when we open registrations.

FAQ

Q. Does the project need to be related to accessibility?

A. No, but the end product must be accessible for people with disabilities. There will be several people to help out with that, so it's completely okay if you haven't worked with accessibility before.

Q. Are there any constraints on what the project could be?

A. No.

Q. I am an industry professional/sighted student. What's in this for me?

A. Love participating in hackathons? Want to make the tech industry more inclusive? want to work on projects that can make a difference? Want to meet fellow tech enthusiasts who are passionate about using their skills for good? Want to experience how blind people code? Want to mentor students new to programming? Want to win exciting prizes? If you answered yes to any of these, we encourage you to apply!

Q. I am an industry professional/sighted student, and I’m a little nervous about working with a blind person. How can I be more prepared?

A. you do not need preparation-just be yourself and come with an open and inquisitive mind without any preconceived notions or biases.

Q. I am a blind participant. Will I get help navigating the venue?

A. Yes, we will have volunteers that will help out navigating the venue.

Q. Can we build on past projects?

A. You cannot work, copy, or improve on past projects. Using your own APIs or third-party APIs is alright, as long as the project is completely new.

Q. When will registrations open for the 2019 hackathon?

A. Registration will open in November 2018. Click here to sign up for I-Stem updates. Until then, join us in the other projects that we are working on.

Q. What if I have other questions?

A. Write to us at info@inclusivestem.org.