Game of Learners is a 5-week virtual student hackathon by Microsoft Africa Developer Center. In this article I share my experience taking my team through ideation all the way to creating an MVP and winning the hackathon
On Monday 1st March at 3 pm EAT, as I rushed from school to join the kick-off meeting of Game of Learners season 2. It was humbling to be selected as one of the team leads. After a week of learning on team management, Azure and DevOps, it was time for the games to begin.
Game of Learners is a 5-week virtual student hackathon by Microsoft Africa Developer Center. Each team has five members and each week is a sprint. The hackathon immerses you into industry experience through working in teams and building a Minimal Viable Product to completion.
I was privileged to lead Team Bloom. The team consisted of Afandi Indiatsi, Festus Idowu, Fortune Adekogbe and Joy Kathure. Consequently, our team was assigned two coaches from Microsoft, Arnold Astril and Elizabeth Okerio, to guide us during the competition.
The Hackathon challenge was on Education Accessibility. It read:
Some of the challenges facing education in Africa are Poor quality environment such as overcrowding; lack of proper facilities like textbooks and learning resources; poverty in most of the countries making it hard to employ qualified teachers; cultural practices that dictate early marriages; and lack of resources such as power, internet and devices. This has in turn delayed critical development journey that accelerates economic growth and most importantly, social well-being. How can advances in digital technology help Africa reverse this situation?
In response to the challenge, we built BloomLearn. Bloom Learn is a product that aims to link students and teachers across Africa. The platform allows teachers to upload classes, create one-on-one sessions with students, and communicate with students on each course via a chat forum. The platform includes a donation function in which donors can donate space or materials, and we can monitor and match donations to recipients using the power platform. Our web application was built using Django and deployed with Azure App Service.
The GOL experience is like no other. Our team was made up of members from both Kenya and Nigeria, however, interestingly enough, we never had a challenge setting up our meeting time. During our very first meeting, we decided to have daily weekday standups at 7:30 pm EAT. The 30-minute standups enabled us to catch up with everyone, have an understanding of where we are in our project and continually remind ourselves of what we are building.
Having a seamless meeting structure, however, did not make us immune from challenges. Two weeks into the hackathon we had to do away with our current collaboration on Git and Github and restart. New code contribution rules were made, with the help of our coaches, everyone was able to write code seamlessly.
During our first sprint we had created a vision of what we wanted to build, four weeks in, several challenges later, we had to revisit our implementation. Our donations platform was an admin feature we did not want to leave out. Using the power of Microsft’s Power Platform, a low-code environment, we created our donations platform in under a week 🤯.
Starting the hackathon, I was new to the backend, I had to consult the Game of learners ambassadors on how to create and assign backend tasks in Azure DevOps. As in a normal workplace, challenges occur, one of my team members fell ill and I have to chip in. I learnt how Django, a backend framework, works and before the challenge ended, I was building features and contributing to the backend.
After 3 rounds of judging, our project viewed by 18 judges, we emerged winners.
Looking back at our team expectations, one thing was clear: we wanted to learn, grow and bloom education in Africa. Personally, I also wanted to check whether or not Program Management is a role I would thrive in. Winning not only proved to be a reward for all the hard work we put in but a proof that what we were building was set to be something great.
As we look into the future, we will first work on fixing the bugs in our current application and complete any unfinished features. We also aim towards integrating a payment system to facilitate acquiring of the students’ subscription plans. The research will be conducted further to accommodate our customers wholly. We will allow text-to-speech output for physically challenged individuals. With consultation from advisors as well as experts, Bloom-Learn will have learning programmes for students with learning disorders such as dyslexia.
Feel free to reach out if You’d like to contribute to the future of Learning in Africa.