#YouthvsCOVID: It is not just about building, but it is about building responsibly

Hey, I am Andreea from Cluj, Romania and this is the story about my life-changing journey into hackathons.

My journey starts with my first hackathon in AI, which took place in Bucharest in December 2019: #GirlsinAI Hackathon with Microsoft and Teens in AI.

During this hackathon, we were taught how to use Face, Microsoft AI service that analyses faces in images. My team and I ended up creating an app that uses facial recognition to detect the emotion of students. We used the information about their feelings to create a program that detects when half of a class is bored which then transmits a warning to the teacher so then they are aware that they may need to change their teaching method.

It was an amazing experience where I learned a lot of tech development and how some APIs work.

At that moment I was there just to answer one question: “Do I like working in AI?”, but I came back home with more than just the answer “YES”, I came back with an experience of a lifetime as well as lots of new friends.

After some months I saw on the TeensinAI Instagram page that they were putting up a new challenge: #YouthvsCOVID global hackathon. I was so excited about this and I asked my parents to register me for it.

When the hackathon started I struggled a bit as I was having some communication problems because my English wasn’t so great. I tried to express some of my opinions but I failed. I eventually got over that and I just began to concentrate on how we will build a product. We started off wanting to create an app that will use facial recognition to see when a student is or isn’t focused during an online lesson. I decided to ask the Twitter community about what they thought about our team’s idea and their advice on how we can bring it to life.

At first, we got some really helpful comments from people, but the next morning everything went downhill. I received many bad comments on my post, and people even said that they hated our project.

I just stopped working, I felt depressed and I lost all hope.

However, that horrible experience turned out to be the best thing to happen for our team because with a lot of help from some amazing experts, some amazing mentors, and Elena we finally started to understand ethical issues and why it was so important to focus on customers’’ needs and their problems.

You need to keep focused on these problems because they are the consumers who confront these problems every day and in the future, they will decide if your product will help or not them.

Just think about it. If in your opinion, you create an amazing app for schools but teachers won’t find your app beneficial, it just means you aren’t solving a real problem. The most important advice I can give anyone doing something like this is to always work with your clients closely so that you can be sure that your product will really help them.

That was the moment when my team and I decided that a pivot was necessary. We started to communicate better and we understood that research was really needed. We created a survey for teachers, students and parents and in less than 8 hours we received 130 answers. We started to analyze these answers and we finally understood what the biggest problem in online education was: The lack of good internet connection.

This experience taught me the importance of developing technology responsibly and putting our customers’ needs first, but most importantly I can now focus on what makes me happy: “to try to make the world a better place”.

This project was a big challenge for me, but it was rewarding. I think it was one of the best events I have ever participated in and the one in which I managed to grow the most. I recommend hackathons to anyone who is passionate about technology, because you will really learn more than you can ever imagine: it is not just about building, but it is about building responsibly and purposefully. It definitely helped me to start believing in myself and opened my eyes to all opportunities around me.

Since my first hackathon, I have managed to grow more and more and got involved in a lot of successful projects.

My biggest advice to everyone is to never give up and try new things and experiences. This event can help you find an answer to what is probably the most important question in a teenagers’ life: “What I will love to do in my future”. Each experience will help you to grow and understand what is this world really means.

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 the top 10 teams pitch live on 15 May 2020.

Powering the Next Generation of Thought Leaders, Innovators and Technologists in #AI @teensinai #TeensInAI #GirlsinAI #MCStartup2016 Founder @elenasinel