Guest Post: “We Got Hacked” by Marco van den Berg (IRRI)

Hackers consulting with emeritus scientist Randolph Barker about redesigning the RiceGrow game

Hackers consulting with emeritus scientist Randolph Barker about redesigning the RiceGrow game

We have a guest blogger for this post – Marco van den Berg, Chief Information Officer of IRRI shares with us his thoughts on the recently concluded IRRI & SMART BIGAS Hackathon last November 10 & 11 at the International Rice Research Institute:

During the past weekend about 50 hard core hackers ‘targeted’ the premises of IRRI. Mostly dressed in black t-shirts, all equipped with (at least) a laptop, many with soldering guns, and one team even used an oscilloscope (I hadn’t seen one of those for years).  They all converged on the library reading room, where the “Silence” sign (slightly modified for the occasion) was dangling from the ceiling to the rhythm of techno, house, and trance tunes.

The hackers participated in the IRRI-Smart Bigas Hackathon – an event where IT enthusiasts contribute to society by doing what they do best: tinker and create. For non-Filipino speakers: Bigas is Filipino for Rice. After a brief introduction to Smart and IRRI and a short ‘hacking 101’ session for the noobs teams worked from 3PM to 1AM. Some were reluctant to leave the hack for a couple of hours of sleep – they proceeded to do an all-nighter at their hotel. At 8 AM the next morning they picked up where they left off to finish their projects.

So what did they do?

Over the course of the weekend ‘rough’ versions of a variety of apps emerged, and two teams produced combinations of hardware and software for automated data collection. Results include a brand-new version of the RiceGrow game developed at IRRI in the late 1980’s by the Hukes, a ‘rice quiz’ framework, enhancements of the IRRI Nutrient Manager app, an app to crowd source farming advise, a variety adviser app framework, a prototype leaf color detector, a RiceWorld visitor App, and a land leveling app that doesn’t need expensive laser gear – a phone will do. Pretty awesome for a weekend’s work.

An endearing experience was the presentation by ‘the Love team’ (cue any Barry White song). An enthusiastic geek couple who not only presented a (winning) app but who also professed their love for one another on stage and announced that Sunday was their first anniversary. We decided to put up an extra prize: as soon as they’re married we’ll give them a weekend in the IRRI Guesthouse Honeymoon Suite (we’ll improvise).

We’re getting back to several teams. The winners of the ‘most innovative’ award (the guys with the oscilloscope) will be invited to come and work at IRRI for a week, and we’ll ask them to do a Thursday seminar which will likely be different to the ones we’re used to… We intend to pursue many of the other app ideas as well.

We got hacked really bad. We want more.

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