My participation in NYUADHack 2015!

Yup! I had been to one of the most amazing events!

“NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World” 2015!

Three weeks ago I was in another country, visiting the UAE for the first time in my life, attending very special event. I was part of an exceptional event for hacking the technology to use for Social Good in the Arab World. This awesome event is called “NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good in the Arab World”. (For more info: http://nyuad.nyu.edu/en/news-events/conferences/nyuad-hackathon.html )

I can honestly tell you it is one of the transitional experiences in my life. Over 110 students from all over the world with professional mentors coming with different skills and backgrounds, gathers all at New York University Abu Dhabi, in one of the most awesome cities in MENA region, Abu Dhabi, to hack software and hardware and work on developing technology solutions to help the MENA region solve its problems.

Check the “First ever aerial group photo of ‪#‎nyuadhack 2015 participants!”
https://instagram.com/p/1VAxoBqfHp/

ParticipantsParticipants in the Hackathon!

The efforts have been added to this event are exceptional. Weeks before the event everybody was working side by side just to make it happens perfectly. I had the chance to be a mentor in this event, which means to be responsible for a team of students side by side with other Arab and international mentors. Moreover, weeks before the event I have the chance to work both in Software and Ideation committees preparing software tools, ideation strategy, ideation themes and other info to help students get ready for the hackathon. At the same time, everyone started to engage and talk informally in the group on Facebook and share ideas and knowledge.

On the day arriving to the city of Abu Dhabi, my heart couldn’t stop beating knowing that I’m visiting a city I was dreaming to go to. Abu Dhabi is a lovely city; there I always wanted to see New York University, Masdar Institute and Masdar city, and finally the Grand Mosque (Sheikh Zayed Mosque).

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

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IMG_0084Sheikh Zayed Mosque; Photo Credit is for@Ayah Soufan

Attending an event I wanted to attend two years before and finally had the chance to be part of it. Amazing Arab tech women finally I got the chance to meet in person and of course meeting the awesome Prof. Sana’ Odeh (@sanaodehny) from New York University.

On the day of the event, we arrived early in the morning to the university. The first day is really awesome, all are happy, energetic, and lots of ideas are flying around. People sat together talking and introduced themselves to each other.

The event kicked off with lightening talks! There was a group of inspiring speakers talks about API tools. Other inspirational talks about Social Good in the MENA region delivered by 3 awesome entrepreneurs: Abdallah Absi (@abdabsi) founder of Zoomal, Kamel Al-Asmar (@kamelasmar) founder of Nakhweh, Dina Sherif (@Dinasherif) founder of Ahead of the Curve and many other people.

Lightening tech talks were so much useful! They were all introducing new technologies or APIs that the students can use during the hackathon or they can build up a research using it later on. Some examples such as: Firebase and Meteor, also lightening talks about Data Visualization and Data Science.

Then we started with the ideation themes, mentors from the event gave 3 to 5 minutes about the main themes the students can work on: health, education, civic development, environment, refugees, economic mobility and jobs, in addition to hardware hacking using sensors and wearable devices.

Me is giving a lightening talk
That’s me, giving a 3 minutes talk about Health Theme; Photo Credit is for@Ayah Soufan

To get more insights about what happened in the hackathon look to the hashtag #‎nyuadhack on Twitter.

Here are random Photos from the Action there!

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My Team #Farfesh; Photo Credit is for@Ayah Soufan

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To meet the students and the mentors in this hackathon: http://blogs.nyuad.nyu.edu/hackathon/mentors-2015/ and http://blogs.nyuad.nyu.edu/hackathon/students-2015/

How to Register for this Hackathon Next Year?

This hackathon is open for students from all universities to participate in. Also the professionals can be mentors in this event. Both Applications for mentors and students will be open usually each year between Nov and Dec. To get info about the application please keep following the Hackathon Facebook Page: (https://www.facebook.com/NYUADHackathon) and check their official website: http://nyuad.nyu.edu/en/news-events/conferences/nyuad-hackathon.html
Also, the hackathon is very supportive for outstanding students from the MENA region in computing fields and they will get a chance to be accepted.

My Experience with #Farfesh (CheerMeApp) and Tips to succeed in a hackathon!

The hackathon was a three days event. The students choose an idea to work on after the ideation and team formation finishes. In this hackathon each team should have at least one Arab mentor and one international mentor with group of Arab and International students. The most important thing is really to work with new people and have a diverse team in which will enhance the work and more importantly prevent the Groupthink phenomena (which was a new thing I read about before the hackathon, and I totally agree with it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink )

I believe in my team #Farfesh, we were able to have a diverse team, dynamic and everyone has a reason why they want to work on this idea. #Farfesh (CheerMeApp) is basically a web app which searches the content on the internet and brings the happy positive content to the users who need to cheer up and listen to good stories which inspire them to do more great things. Moreover, the users can post their own happy stories to cheer up others.

Few tips I would like to mention here to enjoy and succeed in a hackathon:

  1. Why to work on #Farfesh?

I’ve learned that the first question you ask to yourself once you joined a team – especially in a hackathon – is: why do you want to join this team? Why do you want to work on this idea? What differences does it make to you? And what differences are you going to bring to it?

  1. Gather the team members’ thoughts and ideas about the idea!

Get your team members to speak about their thoughts, feelings and ideas related to the idea you’ll be working on. This will get everyone all on the same page especially at the beginning and will review each one expectation.

  1. Brain storm together before writing any line of code.

It is very important at the beginning that the team members think about what they are going to build? Who will use it and Why? By doing this, you will be able to identify lots of things about your idea. Think as much as you can and write down with your team all the ideas and the scenarios that will benefit the user of this product. Do not pre-judge the ideas, just think with your team and write everything.

  1. Now it is time to know what to build!

After all the team members know what and why they are building this, they can decide what should be in this product!

  • Build the most important feature of the product.
  • Have a “must have” and “nice to have” list, and work on the must to have one first.
  • Work on the wire-frames! Go through the pages you want to build and the functionality goes in each one. Draw the most important layout helps you arrange the work and the design early in the process.
  • Decide the three components of the project and the APIs you’re going to use, such as: how is the data will be stored? What database to use? What is the structure you need for the database and what are the entities? Then what is the business logic to build? What are the most important actions in this business logic and what code should be written in each one? Finally have a look to the design needed for the wire-frames and let the designer work on that.
  1. Clear rules and tasks! Help each team member to have a clear role and task to work on. Keep them focus on what to build (the must have list first).
  2. Review the progress. Agree all on a time during the hackathon, every few hours of each day for example to review what you have built and you need to do next.
  3. Finally, use APIs and technologies that help you prototype your idea into a real product and build the most important features first. Decide if you’re going to build a web app or a mobile app, then search the tools and the APIs which can give you the most out of it in two days. We used Meteor for our web app (http://farfesh.meteor.com/), and the students in the team were able to use JavaScript and MongoDB to build it with CSS and HTML for the design.

At the end, I really would like to thank my awesome team #Farfesh, I was really happy to work with you all: @Geoffrey Litt, @Ahmed Ali, @Hieu Hoang, @Abdelrahman Al Harahsheh, @Paula Dozsa, @Jumana Sultan and the awesome cheerful girl @Houda Bouamor.