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The Ama-zing Hack Review

The weekend of September 19th and 20th was amazing as The Ama-zing Hack kicked off. This was a hackathon we conducted for It took place at the Amazon Development Centre in Chennai.

The hackathon was under the purview of the Kindle Digital Content Platform Team (“DCP”). They were looking for Software Development Engineers with experience in building scalable distributed systems. And not too surprisingly, that was the theme of the hack!

This was our first major hackathon in Chennai (if you don’t count Stayzilla). So we had 7 representatives of Team Venturesity present. (Turns out, we didn’t need so many because of Amazon’s organization. Amazon team: you guys are AMAZING!)

Saranya Chowdary (our rockstar of operations) made sure that our team got to the venue early. The team got there around 8:45 a.m. and the first participants started streaming in. Come 9:30 a.m., there were around 45 candidates present at the venue.

The Amazon team started getting nervous as they expected around 80 attendees. But Saranya assured them that the place would fill up shortly. (After all, dear reader, you know how hackers are. 🙂 )

Saranya was right! When the dust cleared, and registrations completed, there were a total of 136 participants.

Hackers, hackers everywhere and a place to hack!
Hackers, hackers everywhere and a place to hack!

As usual, the hackathon kicked off with a little icebreaker session. In this session, participants had to build a structure using spaghetti and marshmallows.  A stand out structure was a team that replicated part of the Amazon logo. (Well, just the A-Z part. 🙂 )

Sure looks like A-Z to me!
Sure looks like A-Z to me!

After the session concluded, it was time to get down to brass tacks. Palanidaran Chidambaram, from the Amazon team, introduced the participants to Amazon and its culture. Following this, Ram from the tech team talked about the hack and the problem statement.

With that, the hack got underway.

The Amazon team’s hospitality was amazing. The Internet facility was the best we’d ever seen. (Stands to reason right? After all, it’s AMAZON!)

The team made sure that the hackers did not starve. They provided breakfast, lunch, dinner and a few snacks. Their amazing tech team, on the ground throughout the hack, provided (you guessed it!) tech support to participants. With such wonderful organization, the Amazon team has raised the bar for all our hacks to come!

We held several competitions throughout the hack to lighten the mood. One of the most popular was the best crazy selfie contest.

Crazy enough for you? ;)
Crazy enough for you? ;)

On Saturday evening, participants had to submit an outline of their ideas. This enabled mentors from the Amazon team to see attendees’ thought processes in action! (This is now a feature of all our hacks.)

Night fell over the city of Chennai. Several hackers went back home to work on the problem statement in their ‘jammies. But many stayed back overnight hacking away. (We see this happening in every one of our hacks. Amazing stuff!)

Hackers working at night!
Hackers working at night!

Morning time on Sunday, and there was breakfast! The hungry hackers tucked in. They knew it was a long day ahead, what with the prize distribution and all.

11:00 a.m. was the deadline for submissions. We could see hackers all around the venue fixing up last minute bugs. 🙂

Then the gong for submissions sounded and hackers stopped work. The judges huddled together to decide on the final presentations.

While everybody was waiting for the results, the Amazon team distributed a few goodies. They even gave certificates and T-shirts to all attendees!

The judges were taking a long time to decide. So we held a little quiz contest focusing on Amazon. This helped to pass the time.

Finally, the judges decided on their list. The plan was to have the best 5 teams present to the crowd. But because of the quality of submissions, the Amazon team decided to have 11 teams present! (Chennai hackers, you have surpassed Bangalore. Bangalore hackers, are you going to take this without protest?!)

A team presenting.
A team presenting.

Once the teams finished presenting their presentations, it was time for judging. Attendees also voted on which submission they liked best.

Without further ado, here is the final list of winners in each category:

  • Public vote: Salaikumar. This three member team worked on the second problem statement. Take a look at their approach.
  • Deliver Results: Tech cranks. This single lone soldier tackled the first problem statement. Here is his take.
  • Invent and simplify: BeastMasterz.  Here is the approach that this two member team took.
  • The ultimate award. Salaikumar. (The public and judges are in agreement!)

As we look back over the events of The Ama-zing Hack, we get astonished at the hospitality of the Amazon team. Their amazing team made sure that the hackers (and us!) had the most memorable experience. We are sure that the hackers are now charged up for more.

All AMAZING hackers!
All AMAZING hackers!

P.S. Special thanks to Saranya Chowdary and Harpreet Kaur without whose valuable inputs, this blog post would NEVER have been written. Amazing folks! 😉

End of The Ama-zing Hack review quiz:

Question 1: How many times did the I use the word “amazing” or variants thereof? Note that occurrences of the word “amazing” in this End of Hack review exercise are AMAZINGLY counted. 🙂

Question 2: Interested in attending more amazing hacks and online challenges? Yes? Hop on over to our amazing webpage and take your pick!


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About Author

Bharat Ramakrishna

Blogger. Part-time mathematics enthusiast. Loves esoteric and quirky things. Bibliophile. Has a wide range of interests including playing chess and pool, juggling and creating puzzles of fiendish difficulty. Grammar Nazi.