Aug 20, 2018

Solving Problems at the Microsoft Hackathon


With roughly 20,000 participants globally, Microsoft’s annual company-wide hackathon is the largest of its kind, giving employees and interns a chance to apply their problem-solving skills to projects that deliver social impact. The “Hack for Good” track of the event allows participants to team up with a nonprofit organization to address a specific need. This year, engineers worked with Pratham to fix an issue related to Pradigi, our digital learning app.

Pradigi offers children access to high-quality, interactive content that can help improve their basic literacy and numeracy skills, support their subject-specific competencies, and promote their ability to think critically and work collaboratively. Currently, 25 games and more than 500 videos are available for three age groups in 11 Indian languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Odiya, Punjabi, Telugu, Tamil, and English).

One game teaches children to read and write using a method similar to karaoke. However, several hours of potential content was not timestamped, rendering it unusable, and the act of doing it manually was untenable. Over the course of the week-long challenge, the team searched tirelessly for a solution, experimenting with voice activity detection and speech recognition technologies to automate the process.

For Pratham, the event was a success in several ways. Microsoft places giving and philanthropy as key tenants of the company’s culture, and with our Seattle chapter, there are near-endless opportunities to work with the Microsoft community. But beyond valuable networking and community-building activities, we were able to work with the Microsoft team to produce a tangible result. “This is a great hack for good project,” said Chandan Reddy, one of the Microsoft engineers involved. “It’s solving a real problem and benefiting kids and their learning opportunities.”

“I’m so grateful to the Microsoft team,” said Viren Kamdar, president of Pratham’s Seattle Chapter. “Jayant Gupchup, Ranjitha Kulkarni, Nick Kibre, Chandan Reddy, Martin Ellis, and Anandhi Ramesh made it happen, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Pratham and Microsoft employees.”