NEW IDEAS, OLD PROBLEMS
Careers 360|September 2020
What happened to the projects that won prizes in the Smart India Hackathon?
Atul Krishna

In the summer of 2019, a group of students from Mar Baselios Institute of Technology and Science in Kerala was among the winners of the Smart India Hackathon – Hardware Edition, 2019.

Team Forbots had designed an unmanned ground vehicle, or UGV, that could plant seeds and even monitor their progress for some weeks to enable reforestation. Organised by the Ministry of Human Resource Development every year, the Smart India Hackathon promises government funding and incubation by industries for winning projects.

But there is an evident mismatch between the hectic lives of the students who participate and the stately pace of government processes.

By the time Team Forbots heard from the government about their project in February this year, three of its members had already graduated.

Such delays are not exactly uncommon. Another team heard from the government that they won a prize two years after their entry in the hackathon.

Members of the winning teams say that while the hackathon afforded them great exposure, the reaction time for harnessing new ideas for implementation should be much shorter. Else the teams graduate, lose interest or move on to other projects.

The Hackathon

Hackathons are marathon coding or design sessions that end in new ideas or products from the participating teams or individuals.

The Smart India Hackathon was launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to provide a platform for students to work on providing technological solutions to real-life challenges.

Various ministries, departments and even industries would provide problem statements on specific challenges in their fields that students would attempt to solve. Winning teams got prize money and further funding for their projects.

Four editions of the hackathon have taken place so far and over 10 lakh students have worked on over 1,800 problems. This year alone, 10,000 students worked on 243 problems. From smart vehicles to waste management to food technology, students have come up with innovative solutions for different problems. From these, a few projects are picked to be incubated by industries and funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

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