Learning to learn: How Team SIS won first-ever Facebook Singapore Hackathon

Written by Ho Yan Yan, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business

Hackathons are often organised by companies such as Facebook and Google and new ideas are born.

The Facebook Hackathon is an intense 24-hour competition that many teams from Asia compete in. Today, we have the winning team consisting of Mengxiang (Max), Abhilash, Alayne and Suresh from SMU’s School of Information Systems, to tell us more about their experience at the Hackathon.

Hi everyone, congratulations on the win! Everyone’s really curious about this Hackathon so please tell us more about this competition. What is its purpose, and who are your competitors?

Facebook Singapore Hackathon is the first Facebook Hackathon held in Singapore. It is a competition that encourages collaborative computer programming among a team to create a working prototype from an idea within 24 hours. Teams are allowed to work on any problem and use any technologies they wish. The competition aims to provide a conducive environment and learning opportunity for students to brainstorm and create new products.

Facebook Singapore Hackathon was open to university students and consisted not only of students from Singapore, but also from all over Asia, such as China, India and Vietnam. The winning team was shortlisted to compete against winning teams from other Facebook Hackathons worldwide in a Hackathon Final at Facebook Headquarters in November.

Sounds interesting! So how did you find out about this competition?

We heard about the competition through an emailer sent by Mr. Lee Yeow Leong, Senior Lecturer of Information Systems at SIS. Mr. Lee regularly sends out information about similar events, and encourages students to take advantage of these learning opportunities.

What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?

We initially formed teams before signing up for the competition together. However, we were later informed by Facebook that participants would have to undergo individual qualifying tests due to overwhelming response and capacity constraints. The results of these tests, released less than a week before the competition, forced teams to have to rethink their strategies and concept.

In addition, not all of the team members were familiar with the technologies we wished to explore during the competition, such as the Facebook Graph API and Meteor API. We had to face a steep learning curve and tight time constraints while working on our application. We managed to overcome these challenges by seeking advice from the Facebook engineers during the competition, who were very friendly and helpful. We also clearly designated each members’ tasks before the competition in order to reduce uncertainty and improve productivity.

In what ways did SMU, and specifically the School of Information Systems, help you to win the competition? Did you apply what you have learnt in class?

SIS has always kept students informed about such events and encouraged us to explore such learning opportunities. We would not have entered the competition without their support. In addition, our modules in SIS have allowed us to develop our learning-to-learn skills which enabled us to acquire new technologies and languages on our own. Our projects taught us how to collaborate together as a team to function in high-pressure environments and cope with unexpected obstacles and challenges.

How is your team preparing for the global round?

We will have weekly practice sessions to help us improve our teamwork as well as our individual abilities. We will also be arming ourselves with the latest and coolest IT skills to make sure we can produce something that is truly on the cutting edge.

Thanks for answering our questions and good luck in the global round. We look forward to more good news!

One thought on “Learning to learn: How Team SIS won first-ever Facebook Singapore Hackathon

  1. Job

    Very good article and I have to agree with your sumamry, that it is very much deception but it is also clever by the companies to promote their products the way they do. I also believe they put all the emphasis on the wholesome aspects whilst omitting all the negatives but then they would wouldn’t they. I will say I really do think the Heinz ad is really clever. However whilst I accept it is just advertising’ and I may eat a burger about once a month (I don’t like ketchup, I don’t mind processed cheese but prefer normal’ cheese) I do not believe it is part of a balanced diet. I believe that the public at large have forgotten the fundamentals of good eating and living these days it is all about convenience foods’. Until the average person is re-educated about the need to eat less processed and to eat more simpler, fresh foodstuff then the health of our nations will suffer. If we are brutally honest a poor diet and obesity kills. Will it go the way of the tobacco industry and the litigation caused, whereby you didn’t tell me your product was bad for me so I am going to sue you’ before anything changes. P Hendon

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