Our Journey: TKS Global Hackathon

Manroop Kalsi
7 min readOct 26, 2020


The TKS Global Hackathon Introduction 🔥

8 days. Our team (Manroop, Richa, Kabeer, Aahaan, Anush, & Urszula) had 8 days to tackle TKS’ largest annual hackathon, The Global Artificial Intelligence hackathon. The objective 🎯of this hackathon was so simple, yet so intriguing:

Identify a problem in the world 🌏, and solve it using Artificial Intelligence that is currently buildable and deployable.

The Launch 🚀 of our Journey

Most of our teammates had never talked to each other before this hackathon, which is one of the biggest reasons that this experience was so memorable for us.

After 5 minutes of our meeting, all the awkwardness of initially meeting new people had completely disappeared, and we started talking like we had known each other for years.

Approaching this hackathon, we all had the same objectives. We were all willing to give this hackathon our 100% and were IN IT to WIN IT 💯 (which is why we really vibed as a team. :)

One: The Brainstorming Phase.

Our first goal was to get down to business and choose a problem to solve with AI 🤖. Sounds simple enough right?

Honestly, it was the most difficult part of the entire process.

There are so many problems out there, that can be approached in so many different ways that identifying a unique solution to solve a specific problem can be SUPER challenging 😤. This was especially difficult because we really didn’t have any guidelines or restrictions, but that’s also why we were able to push ourselves, and put our thinking to the test.

Every member of our team had different interests and experiences, which diversified our team’s brainstorming sessions. Each time someone came up with an idea, we thoroughly analyzed it while identifying the flaws, which helped us maintain those high standards. 🔥

By the end of our first meeting, our team had finally came up with an idea that we thought was “a good idea”: using a machine learning model to tackle the lack of identification and provide effective diagnosis for Dyslexic patients.

Next objective: do more research on the problem, and meet with a 2nd year TKS student to get advice on the viability of our solution.

Lesson Learned: 99% of the time, your first idea will NOT be your best idea.

Next steps identified from this meeting:

  • Identify if the problem is actually a problem (do you have the numbers 🔢 to prove it? Or is it just some testimony from experts?)
  • Make sure to REALLY understand the problem, and identify the fundamental cause
  • Spend 70% of your time cultivating the right idea and 30% of your time deploying the project (don’t just rush into the first idea you think of 💭)

Two: Some more Brainstorming.

Right after this meeting, our group hopped back on call 📲 and chose to approach brainstorming with a new strategy:

  1. Identify the problem
  2. Conduct a 5-why❓analysis and identify the root cause of the problem
  3. Find a solution that helps solve the gap identified in the root cause analysis

Keeping this in mind, our group tried to find problems and somehow twist them and incorporate AI 🤖 into our solutions in any which way (not the best strategy… do not recommend).

Later that day, we attended a talk where one of the speakers was Ameen Kazerouni, the Head of ML/AI Research and Platforms at Zappos, and he had stated:

“Do not force AI into solutions that do not need AI to be solved.”

After internalizing this, our brainstorming did a full 180, and we had started making progress once again (YAYY!!!). This was when we came up with our next idea: using AI technology in order to tackle the inefficiency of crops 🌱 by analyzing field data, and efficiently notifying the farmer 👩‍🌾 of the needs of the crop.

Next mission: do research into existing solutions, and meet with a director at TKS to help address the validity of our idea.

On Wed, Oct 14, 2020, with 4 days left on the clock 🕰, our group finally thought we had a viable and impactful idea. But, at 9 pm we had a meeting with one of TKS Toronto directors and realized that the FarmTech industry is heavily tapped into and already has many similar, existing solutions.

Three: The Last Sprint of Brainstorming.

3 days left. Our group was SUPER stressed 😰 and felt worried because we couldn’t help but notice the flaws in every idea we came up with. Our director encouraged us not to lose hope and trust the brainstorming process.

Then a meeting took place that completely revolutionized the development of our team’s idea. Using the advice we had gotten from the TKS Toronto director, we continued with the brainstorming process.

Meeting focus: the Healthcare Industry.

At 5:26 pm on Thurs, Oct 14, 2020, we had identified THE problem. The one that we all agreed was an IMMENSE issue in today’s society: the long wait times in Hospital 🏥 Emergency rooms (the basis of our final project — mPAth).

Four: The Last 2 days.

After feeling behind for so long, our group was finally able to start working on our project on Fri, Oct 16, 2020, at 4 pm. We assigned ALL the tasks that we had into teams, based on everyone’s previous experiences to ensure maximum efficiency 💯.

Our team separated into different voice channels, and dropped into each others’ meeting every once in a while to get a progress update as well as to make sure everyone was eating snacks, had taken a break and was still alive! :)

We worked extremely hard up until 5 am on Saturday, which was when we agreed to take a 3-hour nap, waking up at 8 am to continue working (we were so sleep deprived… 😭).

Submitting and Waiting.

At 6:37 pm, 23 minutes before the submission deadline we had finally finished all the work, and the remaining task was to record the final pitch. After MANY technical difficulties, the pitch was finally recorded and submitted at 7:03 pm.

This was the moment the wait had started (DUN DUN DUN).

Our team was anxious for results, we took a break, and met back at 9:45 pm. Time seemed to be dragging on, results were supposed to come out at 10 pm, and by 10:30 still nothing. Every minute seemed to last an eternity. But, as time went on, our nerves dissipated and we bonded over playing Among Us and reflecting on our journey. 🤩

Finally, at 11:22 pm, the Top 10 Teams were posted. We couldn’t believe our eyes. We’d made it to the Top 10 Teams. All those hours grinding had paid off. Our celebration was very short-lived, as we realized there were so many things that we wanted to fix for our final pitches.

Five: Final Presentation Preparation

We started planning all the things we wanted to revamp for our final live presentation and even hopped on a meeting with a director at 12 am and just to get feedback (the more feedback the better). At 12:30, we decided to recharge ourselves by taking a 4-hour nap before getting back to work.

Around 4:30 am, we spent the rest of the time that we had, redoing our UX/UI and slides, working on our prototype, as well as revamping our talking points. Then at 12:30 pm, came time to present 🎤 our final pitch to the panel of judges.

In the end, our team received a special shout out from Ameen Kazerouni who chose to recognize us and identified that we had chosen to tackle a very real problem in our society. He also helped us recognize that there was an abundance of regulations, and such, that we should be considering for mPath’s future.

Being my team’s first hackathon, our team had the most amazing experience possibly imaginable working together. We were able to develop an amazing team dynamic 🤩, and have developed friendships that will last a lifetime. Through this experience, we challenged ourselves, learned how to overcome an abundance of hurdles, and really used our figure it out mindset.

Key Takeaways:

  • Done is better than perfect! There is no such thing as perfection, so don’t waste your time attempting to achieve it. 🚀
  • It’s essential to really understand your idea 🤔. Spend most of your time cultivating your idea, and ensuring that it truly is a good idea.
  • Always aim to challenge yourself. It’s the best way to obtain the most value as well as growth 🌱.

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