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How tech geeks battled it out at Ramco Systems’ hackathon event

Participants at Lord of the Codes

Participants at Lord of the Codes   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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Coding marathon, Lord of the Codes, saw 30 teams battling it out to come up with creative and feasible business solutions

Twenty-four hours. That is all you have to solve a complex problem statement. Given the stipulated amount of time, how many layers of code can you construct? At the outset, it seems a gruelling task. Well, not for the third-year Computer Science students of SSN Engineering College, whose team RM-RF — a command operation, if executed, kills the entire system on Lynx — killed the recently-concluded coding marathon, Lord of the Codes, hosted by Ramco Systems.

Code wars

Like any typical hackathon event, participants were presented with industrial-level problem statements — in this case, four scenarios: supercool workspace, automatic work measurement, smart grid concept and frictionless customer experience in a retail outlet. The latter was a test case that was given directly by McDonald’s to Ramco Systems, and it was a case for which RM-RF designed an almost error-free prototype. “As a company, what do we gain by conducting hackathon events? The idea is to give them complex scenarios, which we ourselves might have solutions for. Since most of them are college students, the only criterion with which we evaluate is whether or not they are able to think out of the box,” says Harsh Vardhan, head of Digital Enterprise Business, Ramco Systems.

Over 120 participants, divided into 30 teams consisting of not more than four in a team, were seated in two zones. They were made available with various services — a chirapsia massage, a cafeteria and a shower room — at their disposal. Internet access was provided and they can refer any number of sites, except a few — which were under scrutiny for plagiarism. All the coders needed to do was this: come up with solutions that are both creative and innovative. The coding session was flagged off on January 4 at 12 pm. Which means that when the clock struck 12 pm on January 5, they were expected to share three components: application deliverables, code files and a power-point presentation, explaining the workflow of their models.

Syntax to success

When the members of RM-RF flipped through their test case, they almost had a brain fade moment — the situation wasn’t any different with other teams. They had to engineer a business model for retail automation. For instance, if a food company is flooded with requests beyond their limit in a particular area, especially when other outlets are ready to serve customers, then how do they optimise requests? In layman’s language, how do you balance the load between multiple outlets, so that each one of them works efficiently without hiccups? “We were completely blank at first. We thought of taking the usual route and presenting statistical analysis. But what if the solution we provide was unique? We wanted to provide a service which anybody can use. That is how we started developing our algorithm,” says Kandavel A, one of the members of RM-RF.

(Second from left) Sujin K, Mohanasundar M, Kandavel A and Pooja S

(Second from left) Sujin K, Mohanasundar M, Kandavel A and Pooja S   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

They spent seven hours on research, following which, the team brainstormed on effective solutions for real-time issues. “Firstly, we segregated shops based on load requests and our algorithm was smart enough to balance this. So, when you insert our code to your system, it will optimise requests and route it evenly,” says Mohanasundar M, who wrote the algorithm with Kandavel, while Pooja S took care of the web application and Sujin K developed an android application.

Test of language

While the first few hours involved them roaming around, talking to people, figuring out the structure, Mohanasundar says they started hammering the keyboard around 10 pm on January 4. But they met with one critical challenge: cutting down cost. “When you order something from a service provider (like Swiggy), it sends requests to every single outlet. We had to figure out a way to cut down ETA (expected time arrival),” explains Kandavel, adding something about how API requests work; the very reason why this writer chose to make a career in journalism.

Pooja, on the other hand, credited volunteers from Ramco for offering insights into design issues and sharing hints. “We cached data from users placing requests from a particular area. We used that data to find the nearest outlet, thereby cutting cost,” she says, adding, “We ran out of test cases after a point. So, when it was time for presentation, we challenged the jury members to present a problem and we solved it live.” Over 24 jury members, who are domain experts, were brought in for evaluation. “All of them were judged on three basic criteria: technical architecture, innovation and articulation. Based on these, they were rated on a scale of five,” says Prince Sudersanam, vice president, ERP Product Development, Ramco Systems, about the selection process.

“Right from the start, we were sure of cracking the code. All we had to do was to sacrifice sleep,” says Mohanasundar. The effort was worth it...for they bagged the first place with a cash prize of ₹50,000.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 1:20:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/thinking-in-java/article30494245.ece

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