BITDN Regional Hackathon

BITDN Regional Hackathon – 11 – 13 October 2022

The inaugural regional Hackathon event hosted by the BRICS Intelligent Telescope and Data Network (BITDN) marked a significant milestone in the collaboration between the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) and the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) under the BRICS Astronomy programme. Held from 11 to 13 October 2022, at the SAAO, this event was part of the Hack4dev initiative, a partnership encompassing organisations like OAD, AfAS, ilifu, and Dara Big Data. Its primary objective was to cultivate data science skills and leverage them to address development challenges.

With a total of 27 participants, including Honours, Masters, and PhD students from diverse scientific backgrounds, the event fostered a collaborative environment for skill enhancement. Equipped with a basic understanding of Python and Jupyter Notebooks, the participants received guidance and support from five experienced tutors.

The program featured enlightening talks by esteemed experts in the field. Notable speakers included Prof Christopher Thron from Texas A&M University-Central Texas, who discussed Data Science in Academia, Luan Africa from the University of the Western Cape Technology Transfer, who provided insights into the Data Science industry and entrepreneurship for students, and Paul Kennedy from Zindi, who shared valuable lessons learned on the journey from basic research to tech entrepreneurship. The opening address was delivered by Mr Takalani Nemaungani, the Chief Director of Astronomy from the Department of Science and Innovation.

The hackathon fostered a spirit of teamwork, peer learning, and enjoyment as participants collaborated to tackle data challenges using machine learning techniques. Rather than emphasizing competition, the event focused on skills development, leaving participants with a profound sense of personal growth. Through engaging in tasks, working cohesively in teams, and acquiring valuable skills and knowledge, the participants were empowered to excel beyond their previous capabilities.

The success of this event exemplified the transformative power of collaborative efforts and skills development. It not only advanced participants’ proficiency but also instilled a sense of empowerment and motivation to tackle future challenges. The BITDN regional Hackathon epitomized the collective commitment to nurturing talent, leveraging data science for societal progress, and driving innovation within the BRICS Astronomy community.