Łukasz Piłatowski

IT passionate with a head full of ideas

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Category : personal

This weekend was one of the most fantastic and surprising weekends I had in my life. If anyone would told me what’s gonna happen, before the event, I definitely wouldn’t believe it. In fact - I still can’t believe that this actually happened - that my team and my idea won the HackYeah 2019 - biggest hackaton in Europe!

This story will be very mixed and will be just like a clip from the film, so let’s begin.

Days before the event

One day, while enjoying the last sunny summer days, working remotely from my garden at home, I saw a promo from HackYeah - write us a message describing why you love programming, and we’ll give you the ticket for free. I was like - ok, if it’s true, then without any costs I’ll be able to check out what is about all those hackatons, and I’ll be able to prepare myself better for upcoming NASA SpaceApps Challenge hackaton in October.

What surprised me even more is that the organizers paid also for train tickets to and from Warsaw - this basically removed any arguments against attending this event.

I tried to invite some of my friends or colleagues, both private and from TEONITE, but unfortunatelly no one was willing to join me. I didn’t know whether I should go there alone or not, I tend to go to such an events with company. But this time I decided to give it a go and it was a great decision - it’s a great lesson for me, to be more confident and make new friendships there.

Friday evening (one day before the event)

As I was preparing myself for the journey, I was reopening the emails from HackYeah. And in one of these emails, I found Discord server invitation. I joined right away, to receive informations about the event and ask questions quicker and better. After joining the Discord, I saw #team-building channel and this gave me an idea - if I could manage to create a team of people who are also there for fun, without the urgent need to win, then I can spend this time better, at least with the people who’s attitude is similar to mine.

So, first of all, I created a team on HackEarth - a platform on which we’re meant to submit our results.

I called it Rangers and provided a short description:

hackearth team description

Afterwards, I took some time to pack my stuff, and surprisingly I already had one team request - from a UI/UX designer. So, I accepted it, and right away posted a message on Discord:

hackearth discord request

This made me talk with many people, mainly on the friday evening, where I knew I should get some sleep before the event. But, I managed to talk and recruit:

  • Łukasz - business oriented guy with some experience in UI/UX
  • Rasmus - a full stack dev from Sweden, with a couple years of experience
  • Kacper - young developer focused on backend side and game development
  • Stanisław - UI/UX designer with experience and finished art school

I thought that ok, we’re all somehow commited to work together, but we don’t know anything about ourselves (the info you see above was not so complete back then). It was interesting, since there were many unknowns.

Who really are they? Will they come? Will we manage to decide on which task should we work?

With this in mind, I finally went to sleep.

Saturday

3AM

I woke up, gathered all my stuff, kissed my wife and kids, ordered Bolt and went out of my home. Then, I got a strange feeling, like I would be doing something wrong. But, anyway, Bolt arrived and I was on my way to the train station

hackearth team description

4.30 AM

On the train I noticed lot’s of people that also are willing to attend HackYeah - pretty much everyone with laptop, with IDE opened, discussing some of the concepts for the upcoming event.

It was nice, but as I didn’t know anything about my team and the task I would be working on, I just opened my IDE and started to work on MLToolkit (adding remote camera sources and basic CI/CD)

10.15 AM

We went from the train station to the bus stop. Next dedicated bus we had was at 11AM, so we stood there for a while. In the meantime, people kept comming and comming, where finally, at 11AM, there were more than 200 people waiting for the bus!

We all tried to get in, I was even so lucky to catch a seat, and then, packed as in a fish can, we began our journey to HackYeah

11.30 AM

I finally met my team… with just 2 people. The others weren’t there, Rasmus said we hould be late…

But, for us not to loose time, together with Kacper and Łukasz we started to think about the ideas. All in all, we came up with 7 possible applications we could work on - where 3 of them were related to HackYeah partner tasks and 4 to open categories (environment, communication and security)

Then, we prepared the doc on Google Drive, on which we did the voting - each of us ranked the idea from 1 to 7, and the idea with the highest score will be the one that we’re focusing on. And, after all we chose my idea - Forestville

Forestville application idea was taken from popular FarmVille game from Facebook, where you pick the desired field, pick a plant which you want to place there, and pay for it with the virtual coins, to see it growing.
Forestville utilizes similar approach to seeding, but this time in a more eco-friendly results - instead of planting some virtual plants, you actually plant trees.
  1. First, you choose the forestry or any other area egible for tree plantation
  2. Then, you choose which type of the tree you'd like to plant, along with the seed price
  3. Then, you pay for the ordered seeds with e.x. PayPal
  4. Finally, the forester buys the seeds, plants them in your desired area and sends you the photo of the seed you paid for - and then you know you did one small step for improving our planet condition
Of course, you can buy water or any other product with a cite "We'll plant milion trees thanks to you!", but you actually can't see then or verify it in any way that they did what they claim
This application gives more personalized and individual experience to this, allowing you to choose where and which tree to plant.
12AM - 12PM

Just before the event started, to our team joined just 16 years old Michał - he said, from what we laughed lately, that this ocassion may not happen again. He was surely right!

And the rest of the day was like:

Coding, pizza, coding, coffe, coding, coding, more pizza, coding, water…

prettu much all except Łukasz and Stanisław, where the former one was meeting with the banks and national institutes to gather as much info on the application possibilities as possible, and the latter one started to design some things, but he needed to go back home to his pregnant girlfriend - and we needed to take UI/UX into our hands.

Sunday

2.30AM

I’m in so terrible energy state, that when I exit my IDE to search for something online, I forgot what was my question - at this time I decide to take some rest.

And here’s the catch - first, I forgot to take any sleeping equipment, like bedroll or pillow, with me. Second - people were literally sleeping everywhere they could. All sofas, all mattress and all pouffes were already taken. My only option was to sleep in a sunbed - and somehow I managed it.

4.30AM

The sleep is over, since we have a lot of work to do. A quick coffee, a bite of cold pizza, and we code again.

11AM

The most stressful moment. With only one hour left, we make sure everything works fine, finish some last bits, we mocked and temporarly removed the PayPal integration - somehow it stopped working all of a sudden.

11.50AM

We submit our solutions in pretty much last available minutes (God thank you the internet was working fine).

Then, taking a deep breath, we all congratulated ourselves and went on to Chill Area to relax a bit - Łukasz wanted to relax so much he actually broke the boxing machine with a single hit - nice!

1PM

We ate some sandwitches, browsed the web, chit-chatted a bit - total chill. We had an info that in our category - Environent there were over 40 submissions. We kept wondering what were other projects about, what are the other ideas?

The first finalists were being anounced - and with our attitude, we were not expecting anything, so no stress was about the results at all.

1PM - 2.30PM

THEY - CHOSE - US - AS - FINALISTS - it’s what I heard from Łukasz with a burst of enjoy from his side.

No way, they didn’t say Rangers /our team name/ - I replied.

But they said - Forestville! - he said.

And he was right! We were the finalists!

hackearth finalists

What it did mean, we soon came to find out. The organizers told us that RIGHT NOW all finalist teams are going to the desired room and will be presenting their solution to the judges. Each team had only 3 minutes to present their ideas to the jury!

That where the factination with a little dose of stress came in. We discussed with Łukasz how should we present this idea, what will each of us say, how to conduct the demo and the presentation in this short time. Good for us there were two other teams that went on before us - we had more time to prepare ourselves.

And, as you may expect - During the demo we had a demo effect! YAY!. The mocked checkout didn’t work, application froze on the payment flow…

But instantly, someone from the judges (and there were about 40 of them) said - “No worries, just the demo effect”, and with some smiles on their faces we continued.

If you’re interested, feel free to see the PDF presentation here

After our presentation, we had two questions from jury, and having them answered we were free to go - to wait and with for the best.

3PM

The awards ceremony has started. Since on HackYeah, there were many categories, it was expected for it to take some time to finish.

But, what worried me, was that my train to Szczecin was leaving at 4.10PM!. So should I leave? Maybe we won’t receive nothing and I won’t have to deal with finding myself a way home, especially that I’m tired as hell… But after all, I was too tired to get up from my chair, and stayed on the ceremony.

4.15 PM

The last category - Environment. And the winner is… Forestville!!!

OH - MY - GOD. We started to jump around like monkeys, huging eachother, everyone was congratulating us, we jumped on the stage, organizers and hype man shaked our hands, hostess came up with a big check for 10.000 PLN. I took the check and holded it with excitement above my head, as the winners always do.

hackearth finalists

It was fantastic. We were not able to tell what now, what are our plans, none of us was ready for it.

Since everyone was tired, and I was the only one from outside the Warsaw, they gave me a ride to train station and went home.

5PM

So, with all the excitement and tiredness, I went to ticket office, to book a train. The only option was to depart from Warsaw at 10 PM. And since the train was already full, I had no sitting there!.

10PM

The train departures, there were many people like me, standing in the train, but I couldn’t do it - I was so tired i needed to find any spot so that I can take a nap. Somehow, I sat on the floor, hugged by bagpack, and right away I was asleep.

11PM

I woke up since I felt wet on my leg. As soon as I stood up, it happened that some bum got into the train, sat on the floor, opened his beer and fall asleep - having his beer flood all over the floor, which was the reason I woke up.

So, the floor is sticky, I cannot take a nap, I cannot seat anywhere - great!

I finally sat in front of the train doors, where was a bit dry, but every 5-10 minutes someone was passing there by so I needed to wake up and let this person go.

Monday

3AM

As soon as we arrived at Poznań, some of the seats were freed, and I rushed to take one and hope it wont be taken until Szczecin. This hope was true, and on this seat, sleeping way better than on the floor, I managed to end my crazy journey.

Summary

Thank you, all of you - for the congratulations, for good and nice words. To those who were at HackYeah - thank you for creating a great atmosphere, full of creativity and passion. For my team, that we made it, and we can share the joy of victory together!

If you have some questions - feel free to ask on the disqus below.

But in the meantime - I’ll take a rest in my comfy bed - the luxury I really appreciate right now!

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