#YouthvsCOVID: Everything has its limits — one young participant’s journey.

My Individual Journey — Sarunathi, aged 14

I never knew what a hackathon was until one of my friends introduced me to the Teens in AI #YouthVsCOVID online hackathon. I was contemplating whether or not I should take part in it, but I am so grateful that I did and that my friend told me as I have enjoyed every bit of it and learned so much through it. Before this, I only had some experience in Python and that was only because I had learned it at school. I had absolutely no clue what ML was or what design thinking was and I didn’t really know what steps were taken when developing an idea.

This hackathon has taught me so much: things that I honestly didn’t know I would be capable of. In less than a week, I was able to learn how to code a calculator and a diary using swift, merely using and following tutorials online. Just by listening and following the tutorials, not only was I able to actually code a calculator and a diary, but I actually understood the code and knew how to make some tweaks so that it would suit our needs, like the colors, text, font and I was even able to assign different functions to different buttons. It was so foreign to me at first, but the fact that I became familiar with it in less than a week is what amazes me the most.

One major thing that I loved about this hackathon was the fact that it was a group project. It really emphasised how important teamwork is, and how much quicker everything can be achieved when working as a team. Our team worked together extremely well. We were constantly in contact with each other, updating each other with what we had completed and checking what was left to do, motivating each other when something didn’t go as planned, and celebrated together when even the smallest tasks were completed. My colleagues’ hardwork and determination really inspired me to put all the effort I had into this project, and help them produce the best idea we could. We were all dependent on each other, and if we didn’t work together, then we wouldn’t have been able to produce as much as we did.

Making the pitch as a team was my favourite highlight of the entire hackathon.

We spent hours collaborating and came up with a pitch, with it starting off being around 8 minutes long, and then slowly narrowing it down until it was just under 3 minutes. After that, we had an amazing time filming the pitch. That also took hours, with us literally having hundreds of tries until we were able to film a great pitch that clearly presented our ideas. We bonded so much over the time that we created the pitch and we had moments that I would definitely remember later on.

Another major thing that this hackathon has taught me was that everything has limits. No matter how amazing an idea is, or no matter how much you try to avoid it, everything has limits. I think that the main challenge was completing as much as we could in the time given. We were only given a week to produce an idea and a working idea, as well as a pitch, pitch deck and a business canvas, and we also had to balance completing school work and the hackathon, which was extremely difficult. However, this hackathon also taught me that there is always some kind of solution to the limits that one is presented with. We all found a way to balance our time, like there were times where one of us would offer to help them with their part of the project to allow them to complete their schoolwork.

Another limit I faced was that I had absolutely no experience with coding with Swift. Even though I genuinely enjoyed learning how to code with Swift, there were times of which I was frustrated with the fact that the app wasn’t working, and where errors would pop up that I had absolutely no clue on how to fix it.

I would literally spend hours trying and trying to find a solution to that problem and nothing would come up that would help me. There were many times that I was on the verge of giving up and just leaving it because it would just not work, but I am extremely proud that I was resilient and continued to search until I could find a solution. I specifically remember trying to fix the error ‘No Such Module API’, that was preventing the chatbot from running. There were very few methods online that showed how to fix it, and I remember having tried different methods multiple times, and also asking for any mentors who knew how to use Swift. I was so close to giving up and just leaving it, considering that I had tried all the methods that I saw, and that there weren’t any replies yet on anyone available. But I decided to try all the methods again. I stumbled upon one which I actually did wrong, and it turned out that it was the one that would fix the error. I was so happy when I got that to work and I was literally screaming with joy and was so proud that I remained determined to find a solution and was able to solve it in the end. There were many other moments like this throughout the project, like trying to combine the app together, and every time I was able to fix it and overcome the obstacles, I would celebrate. Not just on my own, but my team would celebrate with me.

This hackathon also brought many opportunities and we met many different people, including mentors, businesses and charities (such as Barnado’s), something that I never expected to happen. It was an interesting experience as we were able to receive fantastic feedback from all of them, as well as their views on how we can improve our app to ensure that it is the best that it can be. We have learnt so much from all those opportunities too!

I am extremely fortunate for being able to take part in the project, and having taken a lot from it, some of which would definitely be useful at some time in the future. I have enjoyed many parts of it, especially working as a team, and have taken so much away from it. I do hope that we are able to develop our project into something that can be implemented to help victims of domestic violence in the future, and hope to create a positive impact, especially with everything that is going on right now.

For more information on #YouthvsCOVID go to https://www.teensinai.com/hackathons/covid-19-hackathon/

Follow us on YouTube and join us live to watch top 10 teams pitch live on 15 May 2020.