Tech-Savvy Enthusiasts Create Life Optimization Solutions during HackAUBG 4.0
AUBG’s 48-hour programming marathon HackAUBG 4.0: Reimagine Reality, organized by student club The Hub gathered 60 enthusiasts who developed prototypes of their ideas on "Life Optimization". The marathon brought on-campus experts from the Bulgarian tech industry, alumni, and some of the most progressive IT companies April 1-3, 2022.
The co-presidents of The Hub's team this year were Siel Shefketova and Kristina Borisova -- fourth-year students, who spent their last semester at AUBG executing an on-ground competition after two years of online hackathons. Kristina had a special sentiment for HackAUBG as this was the first AUBG initiative she participated at when she was still in high school. Five years later, she is the co-president of the club. “The aim of our annual competition - the hackathon "HackAUBG" is to target specific problems and to give the participants freedom to come up with what we like to call ‘the solutions of tomorrow’,” she said. “For this reason, we have had hackathons with topics like Education, Digital Wellbeing, Environmental Sustainability, and Smart Cities. This year, we decided to take a step further and let our teams think outside the box with the topic of Life Optimization.”
Even though HackAUBG is a programming competition and the end team project is often a mobile application, the best way to find a working solution for a team is to introduce them to experts from diverse fields of work, the organizers said.
Siel is one good example of a tech-savvy person whose main educational focus falls on other disciplines. “We actively promote that the stereotype that all you need to win the hackathon are programming skills is not true,” she said. “While passion for technology-driven innovation is a must for every member, coding skills are just one of the many special talents that go into a highly-functioning team. As with any endeavor, people with a range of skills are needed to bring an idea to life. This is special for me personally because I believe that technology and innovation drive the world forward and even though I majored in Business Administration with minors in Economics and Integrated Marketing Communications, there was no other community on campus to nurture my passion in the field and help me find the many aspects in which I can also be a part of the tech industry.”
The idea generation process for the participating teams at HackAUBG began on Friday with a short pitch from each team. From Saturday morning to Sunday noon, the teams had the chance to meet with mentors from the event's sponsoring companies, which helped them clarify and expand their ideas. And then, on Sunday afternoon, the teams pitched their final presentations, and the jury chose the best performers based on several factors: complexity, project realization, project idea, and presentation.
The five jury members this year were AUBG professor in computer science Anton Stoilov, back-end technical lead at Documaster AS Dimitar Kumanov ('18), co-founder of SkillWallet Milena Monova, Data and Innovation Strategist at ReiffeisenBank and Adjunct professor at AUBG - Ekaterina Marinova ('14), and Managing Partner at Xplora.bg Georgi Malchev (EMBA'04).
The Phoenix team won the first prize for their project Sight Sense, a hardware stick that helps visually impaired people navigate the world through a pair of glasses that can tell the user what is in front of them. The second prize went to the Based in Reality team for the project Gilgamesh -- a Data organization web app that makes online resources easily digestible. The third team that went up on the stage was UPgrade with the project UPsave, a digital friend that helps you organize and manage your spending through pop-up notifications without the need to check the app.
Organizing an event like HackAUBG requires students to put into practice their soft skills, appreciate the teamwork, and, of course, learn to adapt and solve challenges on the spot. “The special atmosphere of an on-ground hackathon, the first one for almost all of the club members, brought up the team’s excitement and motivated everyone to go above and beyond to make sure everything went smoothly,” Siel said. “Hearing the amazing feedback from participants, mentors, judges, and partners felt truly rewarding, as our endless days and nights spent in planning paid off and together, as a team, we created something inspiring. This experience also taught me that things going well doesn’t mean unexpected challenges won’t arise, but it means that when you have the right people on your team, there is no challenge that you can’t find a solution to.”
The organizers said they are grateful to the partnerships they have built throughout the years and the companies that help them develop. “This year’s hackathon would not have been possible without the immense support of our partnering companies - Droxic, Amplify Analytix, Chaos Bulgaria, VMware, Creative Assembly, Paysafe, Uber and Progress,” said the head of the Marketing department, Hristo Hubenov.