AWS Hackdays Online 2020: Interview with Winning Team SymbloT

Hot off last year’s success, “AWS Hackdays Online 2020: Build Tomorrow!” drove over 2,300 participants with 4 new ASEAN participating countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and Pakistan. Participants were encouraged to bring digital solutions to tackle challenges in the fields of Sustainability, Learning and Development, Automation and Security in Southeast Asia.

The application phase in April this year drew over 2,300 participants in total, with the top 5 teams of each country being selected to participate in the regional demo days. The winning teams of the regional demo days were then given 1 week to hack solutions and build prototypes with teammates and mentors before attending the Online Final Event in August to compete against other winning teams.

Among all the outstanding pitches, Team SymbloT from the Philippines was crowned as the grand winner and won a cash prize worth USD 20K with its seaweed profitability advancement workflow network (SPAWN).

The Agorize team conducted an interview earlier with Team SymbIoT to find out their unique experience and secrets to make it to the top among 2,000+ participants.

Read more: Physical or online? How to make your hackathons a success

Glorious return from AWS Hackdays 2019

SymbIoT, led by Reinier Veral, returned to AWS Hackdays 2020 after being the winning regional team of the Philippines AWS Hackdays 2019. This year, the team returned with a new team combination of Casey Jon Chua, Jeremiah Valero JR, Ivy Jumao-AS MM, and Reinier Veral.

It was a great experience to join the hackathon last year and be exposed to AWS technology, this year I would like to take a shot again in winning the South East Asia finals,” said Reinier, the R&D engineer in the team who specialized in IoT and machine learning.

With a strong enthusiasm in hackathons, Jeremiah, the software developer on the team explained to us how he joined the team without priorly knowing Reinier. “I was looking for teammates for the AWS Hackdays on the platform and there I saw Reinier’s team, the winner of the regional demo day last year. They were missing a developer and a subject matter expert in the business respectively, so I called upon Ivy, my friend from university who specialized in the seaweed business to join the team together. That’s how SymbIoT was born.”

Team SymbIoT, Grand Winner of AWS Hackdays 2020

“It was an emotional rollercoaster.”

From designing the solution to winning the national finals to actually pitching at the final event, the team had experienced fluctuating moods, virtually. “After knowing the theme of the grand final hackathon, we had a difficult time moving forward from our solution at the regional demo days, as it was so eloquent in addressing the problems of the finals. However, we were able to overcome this challenge with the help of our mentors,” said Ivy.

According to the team, the grand final was more intense than the regional demo day in terms of competitiveness and quality of solutions. “We felt particularly anxious during the presentation of the Singapore team (Team Badoop). It was very good. A lot of questions popped into our minds regarding our own solution: Is there sufficient application of AWS technology? Are we doing enough? Are we going to win? It was an emotional rollercoaster, and we could only hope for the best,” said Jeremiah.

Recognizing the same experience of the “emotional rollercoaster” during the grand final, Casey, the system engineer of the team added. “We felt super relieved when the Singapore team was announced as the 1st runner-up, and it was truly amazing when our country (the Philippines) was being called as the grand winner. Jeremiah and I shouted Ivy cried, Reinier was very happy.” The team recalled the situation in joy and laughter as if they were experiencing it again.

Adapting to the new normal

In the context of a global pandemic, AWS Hackdays 2020 has swiftly adapted to the “new normal” by providing a quality online hackathon experience for all its participants from around the world. “We’re in a global pandemic, but there are still opportunities like the AWS Hackdays for people to innovate,” said Jeremiah.

Unlike traditional offline hackathons that last for 24 to 48 hours, online hackathons with a longer time frame of 4 to 5 months offered them a chance to build stronger relationships within the team. “We wouldn’t forget the late nights and early mornings we spent together virtually, as it was something that would never happen in an offline hackathon,” added Casey.

Leveraging the functions of the Agorize Platform

To run online hackathons smoothly and effectively, organizers like AWS are seeking better online platforms and tools to ensure that all stakeholders are informed and connected throughout the entire event. Jeremiah, who is a frequent visitor of the Agorize platform himself, commented in pleasure.

“What is great about Agorize is that you can do everything here. Down from finding the competitions, which a lot of people actually have a hard time knowing about, to finding teammates, as I would never have had the opportunity to team up with Reinier and Casey if it weren’t for the platform.”

In addition, teams can continuously communicate with their mentors on the platform to refine and improve their projects. “Mentoring really helped us to gain a clear vision on how to deliver the solution,” said Casey.

Key advice for next year Hackday’s participants

Being the regional winning team of the AWS Hackdays last year and the grand final champion this year, here are some of the key advice given by Team SymbIoT for the participants who are interested to join the AWS Hackdays 2021:

  • Never give up
  • Find the right team members 
  • Focus on your customer
  • Pick one thing and be good at it
  • Make sure your solution can tackle the actual pain point

View current challenges available on the Agorize platform here: https://www.agorize.com/en

Rewatch AWS Hackdays Online 2020 Final Event here:

10 Steps to Organize Your Hackathon

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