Thursday, November 8, 2012

Yarl Geek Challenge - Season 1 - Competitive round 1

Round: Requirements
Place : Kokuvil Hindu College, Jaffna
Date: 26th of October 2012
Sponsored by : Virtusa, WSO2 and hSenid

On the 13th of October 2012, 14 teams turned up for initial workshop at Sarvodya center in Jaffna. Weather gods decided to do a tensile test on the location and we started with a rain interrupted session. To be honest it was bit of an inauspicious start, Sarves the pillar of geek challenge organizing committee quipped to me as soon as we reluctantly eliminated one of the teams, "we are starting with 13 teams on the 13th, let's see how it goes"! I for one doesn't believe in any other number than 7, replied I don't believe in numbers and luckily Sarves also not too much in to it. We decided to keep this part of the story to us till we completed the  whole event.

After the initial session mentors from the industry were assigned to work with the teams. By the time it was the 26th, 5 other teams found the preparation and expectations to be too hectic and dropped out of the process, but the other 8 teams who were hanging on had bigger ambitions, none of them wanted to be pedestrians, they wanted to go on and prove a point. On 26th morning they were meeting their mentors for the first time, till then it's all been collaboration with the team over Skype for the last 2 weeks.

During the morning hours each team had their appointments with  the 'customers'. Giving the teams an opportunity to validate and verify the preparations they had done for the requirements round. I hear that these customers were as 'good' as the usual customers, giving true perspectives, confusing perspectives, requesting three year products to be built in 3 weeks, etc! The purpose was to give a sneak preview at Yarl geek challenge for these youngsters on what the world holds for them when they do their own business in IT or when they start work in IT industry.

We were all good to start but we had one major problem, Yarl geek challenge organizing team maintained an excel sheet to track the todo list. This was a shared google spreadsheet and till the last day there was a todo item  'find a person to compere' to which some cheeky guy went and added a comment - preferably good looking female announcer who could engage audience, we couldn't find any announcer. As a consequence and out of total bad luck for the audience and the teams they had to put up with a very cheap compromise in the form of yours truly as the 'host'!

So the afternoon session kicked off in style in front of the audience and a an eminent judging panel consisting of Dr. Maheson ( Senior lecturer), Mr. Thabotharan ( Senior lecturer), Mr. Preethi ( DB Architect) and Mr. Vignesh (CEO of IIS). Out of the eight teams, for me two teams clearly stood out during this round.  Team zeros from University of Jaffna was prepared well including a simulated screen flow created for their concept of implementing "Aadu pulli aattam" a traditional strategy board game played in Jaffna as an android application. Preparation for requirements round by them was impeccable. For me they looked as the team to beat during the competition. I had a casual chat with them and asked whether they have enough tricks up their sleeves for future rounds, I asked this since I had this doubt whether they were playing all the trumps in round one itself.

Team picture of Team Zeroes with their mentors

Team smart friends stunned me with their style of expressing the requirements.It was an absolute novelty by them, they enacted a role  play in their allocated 11 mins to express the use cases to be covered by the system. It was totally unexpected, it took a few mins for me to digest the fact that requirements can be expressed in this form. They deserve a pat on the back for having the courage to experiment with such a high risk strategy!

Not that other teams were bad, but these two stole the show during the first round. My biggest disappointment in this round was Team Arimaa, a talented bunch but totally mismanaged their time and moved in to the real substance expected for the round only when I made the announcement "you have one minute left ".

Then the judging panel went in for consultation and after a lot of thought they were ready with the results. Tension was building around the hall as people were waiting for results. I called up five teams and introduced them as the bottom five teams and after the judges had given the feedback, Preethi said this guy pulled your leg - you guys are the top five. These five teams breathed a collective sigh of relief I am not sure what really went through the minds of the 3 danger zone team, I don't want to know either! Then the danger zone teams were called in which included Team Arimaa.. After careful review and feedback, panel wanted to give the three teams a life line and declared that since it was the first round there would be no elimination, but warned that from the next round they would come down hard on the teams.

As the dusk started to settle on Jaffna peninsula and the rest of the world went to sleep, some teams were burning their midnight oil determined to make a come back at the design round.. await the next post to read about round two and the twists in it...