The Flight Centre Hackathon was on point, and I’m going to tell you all about it! By the end of this blog, my goal is for you to be convinced that you should attend more hackathons in the future, because you should :)
The Weekend’s Perks
Quick list of things that happened at the event and for me at this hackathon:
- Free Entry!
- Exclusive access to Flight Centre’s dataset
- Incredible venue booked for whole weekend
- Amazing event co-ordinators! (honestly the best people! so nice)
- Free T-Shirt
- A Good Ping Pong Table
- Free Food (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
- Free Drinks (including alcoholic) all weekend long
- $10,000 prize money for 1st place
- 3 months of Fishburners memberships for 2nd place
- I got invited for a surf
- I got 2 x job offers after the final pitch night
How To Do Well
What I’ve learnt from attending multiple hackathons is that a good team benefits from having members that fit into these categories:
- Hispter: These are the creative people that think up the product or service that solves the problem or fits into the market gap. These people are often good at sketching product designs (such as user interfaces, or devices).
- Hacker: A person that has the ability to create a prototype of the product or service.
- Hustler: Someone that can pitch to sell the product. These people are great with time organisation and have the ability to sell ice to eskimos.
Also, bear in mind, that you don’t have to be a ‘hacker’ to attend a good hackathon! There are many ways you can contribute to a team because the event is not all about the product produced but in many ways it’s a proof of concept.
I might add, for the people that aren’t hackers, that it isn’t overwhelming to become one. In all honesty, just over a year ago from now… I wasn’t even programming and I didn’t know what Python was. Just by surrounding yourself with hackers from these events is the easiest way to gain some of the hacker skills and we’re always willing to help out :)
I’ll chuck this here if it benefits anyone. This is the book that I got started with. I would code while I read it, it’s not bad :)
The Weekend Summarised
The welcome night on Day 1 was a really awesome night. Everybody mingled around and started forming teams. We got to listen to Colin Bowman’s view of where Flight Centre stood, and we were all given the task of hacking something up that would improve the quality of service given at the Flight Centre consultant desk. We got shown the data that we would be dealing with.
Once everyone had the data after day 1, each of the teams separated into different areas to started hacking away at their projects. There was plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner provided on days 2 and 3. Every team had access to whiteboards, paper, pens and markers throughout the hack.
Day 3 was the pitch day. After some qualifying rounds, it was intended that only 10 teams that would make it it through to the pitch stage. But because the quality of the competition was so great, all 16 teams made it through to the pitching stage. There were some good laughs, incredible teams and some amazing products that were showcased during the pitches.
Let’s talk about the 18.64GB of data!
Can we talk about the data!…Flight Centre treated us very well to a large subset of their data for the hackathon. They first announced that we would be given access to their PostgreSQL Database, but then later were able to give us CSV’s of the datasets. Compressed, it was a 4.06GB download. +1 to Fishburners for making downloading this dataset possible because your internet is so damn fast!
Because these datasets were exclusive for the event, I cannot go over all details involving the dataset. However, I can say that some parts of the dataset included information such as a user’s gender, age and locations that they had visited.
“Like Netflix for Travel Recommendations” — that was the idea
Anyone that is into Machine Learning knows the great effect that it will have on our society. Intelligent machines are just capable of so much! I know that Machine Learning has the ability to solve problems that society faces, so I spend my time trying to get better at it. For this Flight Centre hackathon, I decided to use Machine Learning system to make personalised travel recommendations. Companies that do not leverage the power of Machine Learning will probably be overtaken by the ones that do, it’s inevitable.
“They need to have a user friendly website for when people stop using their physical shops, because in 50 years people probably won’t be using physical shops to book travel recommendations…” — from my pitch
Because everybody travels differently so it makes sense to recommended the locations to the user that they are most likely to enjoy. Flight centre currently does not do this and only recommends the overall most popular destinations. What this project would ultimately allow the people in the Flight Centre stores to say to their customers: “People who have also been to these locations to also enjoyed these locations …“.
For those that were at the event, they may have realised that I ended up working on this project solo. I can’t talk negatively of the team members because things happen and they were busy with other things over the weekend. I talked with a few of them after the event, they all had university assignments and I’m catching up with them later on over coffee :) Most of them came to see the final pitch. As a result I just went ahead and tried to build the project anyway. The whole event I hung around the Concierge team, played ping pong and had drinks. Because of all the people I got to meet at the event, I still had a really good time.
If you’re interested in how Machine Learning is applied to create collaborative filtering recommender systems, watch the Coursera Machine Learning Recommender series inspired me to do this. (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_npY1DYXHPT-3dorG7Em6d18P4JRFDvH).
Honestly these people were the best team. The glue between these people is inspiring. Not to mention, these folks also won the Techfugees hackathon the week before! You people are the best, well done!!
The product that they made in the short amount of time over the weekend was mind-blowing. What they had built was a complete iPad app for the Flight Centre consultant’s to use that could recommend travel locations based on the user’s emotions using React-Native and Firebase.
Kelsey-Lee’s can explain it better than me, this is in her own words: “We built an ipad app using React Native that would collect demographic and travel data, and then combine that data with a series of visual filtering (swipe right if you like, swipe left if you don’t) during the collaborative process of the consultation. Each image in the visual filtering system was then attributed an emotion value (“happiness score”) using emotion recognition to aid in prioritising the images and the keywords they related to. Using this data with the existing databases we were able to predict customer attributes and build a “travel dream” to display as a mood board to the customer, and serve persona and recommendation data to the agent dashboard.”
This was a super cool application of the Flight Centre Data and I’m sure that this team will go on to do amazing things in the future because they’re an awesome team!! They’re inspiring.
The 3month Fishburner’s membership for 2nd place was awarded to the Concierge team for their awesome efforts at the hackathon. Fishburners is reknowned as “the place where startups start”, I’m sure that these people will use the to their greatest advantage and produce some really cool things.
Josh Wulf, with great speed, has already written up a blog for you to read about the product that his team managed to produce. Check it out: https://medium.com/@sitapati/2017-flight-centre-data-hackathon-winners-powered-by-ibm-bluemix-3ee0105c6e0d
All up, I hope you’ve been convinced to checkout more hackathons!
You don’t need to be a hacker to go to these events, and I encourage everyone to try them out. The vibe from all of the nice people down there will make you feel welcome every time. This Flight Centre Data Hackathon was a ridiculously cool event that I am so appreciative to have been apart of. If you’re keen to come along to any hackathons or tech meetups in the future in your local areas, checkout Eventsbrite.com and Meetups.com. Remember always that when you surround yourself with people that are achieving greatness, you will also strive to achieve greatness.
Even if you’re not technical, you don’t have to be good, just go! Take advantage of them, it’s a fail safe environment and a good experience to surround yourself with these kinds of people for a weekend.
Hopefully we’ll cross paths and see each other at a hackathon soon!
About me: I’m a second year University student at QUT doing my time in Engineering/IT. Enjoy fitness in the downtime for some freedom and body-mind conditioning. Hit me up for a coffee anytime in Brisbane and we’ll talk tech. Earth is a beautiful home, seeing it being destroyed upsets me a lot. Working to save this beautiful home because it’s worth it.