American University of Beirut

Students compete in 48-hour hackathon on big data, AI, and media

​​​​​​Author: Alexia Faus

Organized by the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA),​ AUB brought together around 100 undergraduate and graduate students from all over campus to compete in what has been called the univeristy's “biggest and most inter-disciplinary hackathon yet." Powered by touch, Lebanon's leading telephone operator, as well as Anghami, an Arab music streaming platform that was born in Lebanon, the three-day event ran from January 25-27 and was divided into two tracks. 

The technical avenue, comprising thirteen teams, challenged students to use their machine learning and programming skills to solve a problem posed by Anghami and AUB mentors. The entrepreneurship track, with twelve teams in total, encouraged students to come up with innovative business solutions to improve media user experience through artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. Judges and mentors, leading experts in these fields, hailed from a wide array of organizations and companies, including Netways, NVIDIA​, Anghami, and touch. ​

While 56.9% of the participants hailed from MSFEA​, 27.5% came from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and 11.4% study at the Olayan School of Business​. The remaining students either pursue degrees in the Faculty of Health Sciences or the Faculty of Medicine. The hackathon's success this year comes partly from the organizers' commitment to involve students from different departments, foster an environment of academic exchange, and enable students to work together and envision fresh and innovative solutions. Seven teams were awarded a combined prize of $5,000, while two $1,000 awards were given to each of the entrepreneurship sub-tracks.

“Put yourself in a room, with a team and mentors, a cool challenge, 48h, tasty food, and you sure are on a way to one productive weekend," said participant Sara Hammoud, an electrical and computer engineering student. “Through the hackathon I explored the world of AI and worked on a multi-label song classification problem writing code in a language I've never used before. The hackathon gave me the opportunity to learn more about a field I'm interested in in a cool way by combining AI, Big Data, Media, and Music."

The winners

In the Entrepreneurship Track, the first place was taken by the team that envisioned Tribo, “an innovative AI service that is built to maximize the satisfaction of listeners in pubs, restaurants, malls, gyms, cars, and any other public space," according to the winning team. The group, which took away LL 2,000,000, was comprised of students Amer Shammaa from computer and communications engineering (CCE), Kareem Ayoub (CCE and finance), Mohamad Sayegh (mechanical engineering and applied mathematics), and Sivine Halwani (business).

The second prize of LL 1,500,000, went to postgraduate students pursuing business analytics at the Olayan School of Business​. Sara Jawhar, Farah Ismail, Lea Zoghbi, Remi Nassar, and Antoinette Mouawad created, a site aimed at equipping graduates and job seekers with the appropriate skills to excel in their dream careers.

The third place in this category was awarded to the team that came up with Picalist, a mobile app that is capable of determining the different environments and situations users find themselves in to connect their phone to the appropriate song playlist on Anghami. Georgio El Helou, Andrew Ibrahim, and Marc Ibrahim (all CCE students) as well as Joseph Hajjar (computer science) took home LL 1,000,000. Marc Ibrahim described the hackathon as “a great experience" in which “you do as much as possible to learn, think and implement."

Finally, the fourth prize of LL 500,000 went to Fares Farhoud, Daniel Kamand, Nijad Ddubayssi, Mohamad Ghazi (all studying mechanical engineering) and Wael Hanna (pursuing a chemistry degree),  who created MuSouk, an app-based game targeting young generations and aiming to bridge music with culture.

In the Technical Track, team members Bassel Shurbaji, Christopher Farah, and Myriam Ebrekgi won the ML Challenge 1—Song Recommendation, while team members Ami Hussein, Marc Djandji ,and Wissam Antoun won the ML Challenge 2—Multiclass Song Label Classification. Both teams were awarded LL 750,000LL each. The ML Challenge 2 also had a runner-up team of Ahmad Ghizzawi, John Hatem, Khaled Sarieddine, and Ali Sabeh, who received a combined LL 500,000.

Elias Boustani, one of the entrepreneurship consultants and a judge in the competition remarked that the event had an impressive turn out with many teams presenting well-polished ideas. "I also really liked how you got Anghami mentors involved in supporting the teams on tech and business. It is by getting these deep-industry insights and coupling them with the classroom learnings that students can learn most and develop ideas that are solving real problems." ​

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