Day 1: Smart Farming Challenge

What a day!

The first day arriving early was easy. The excitement and expectations were at a peak and we all wanted the event to begin straight away. The organizers arrived at 7am to make sure everything was ready for the arrival of the participants, who were expected at 8am, and they got surprised when students started arriving at 7:30am. Half an hour early! Nevertheless it was no problem, everything was under control. The excitement was so big that even 4 companies arrived despite the fact that we didn’t expect them to come until Friday! In the end 60 students from 7 Colombian universities and one French university, and companies from Colombia and the Equator, came to participate in the 1st Makeathon Colombia!

Professor Andrés González from the department of Mechanical Engineering gave the opening speech, followed by a speech by the organizing professor Giacomo Barbieri. The challenge presentation was a key moment since these are the smart farming challenges that students will develop during the rest of the event.

And then…to the buses! Two buses were waiting for us with the lunch ready in each seat and we left to Santandercito! But before, the French student, who came directly from Medellín, arrived just in time to hop on the bus. Given the excitement some got hungry and they thought the boxes on the seats were a snack, but most of them waited to get to the farm to enjoy their lunch in open air.

The journey was relaxed, everyone connected to their headphones and enjoying the trip. When we got close to the Salto del Tequendama falls something started to smell bad. The river was contaminated! How important it is to take into account the environmental impact of what we do in order to prevent damaging a place as beautiful as the falls. Lesson learned.

Upon our arrival the 5-minute walk uphill was hard. The terrain was very very steep. After lunch the drone workshop began, where Miguel Quirama from the company Manakin, explained and showed how to fly a drone. Everyone had fun and asked lots of questions. Pictures talk for themselves.

We walked into the coffee field to know, from a farmer’s perspective, how coffee is grown and processed. The shadow from the trees was a relief after the group picture, where all of us with our black T-shirts, had to jam together in order to fit into the picture. How hot. In the coffee field we had the chance to experiment and reflect about some of the inherent challenges of farming which we will have to face. Some of them are the lack of connectivity, the difficult access to some zones and the varying weather conditions.

Approaching the time to leave, and with a better idea of the challenges, we got together in a circle in order to introduce ourselves and present the challenges which interested us. And then… time for team building! Without hesitation all participants started to mix together and look for those who shared their interests!

The journey back was nothing like the journey to the farm. Everybody sat in groups and talked the entire way about the challenges they chose. The day in the countryside joined everybody and created vital connections!

Upon arrival to the university we took a well-deserved 10-minute break and we then received a talk from Manakin about what we can do with pictures taken by drones. We were all awed. Finally we had the Computer Vision Workshop where, despite a licence problem, we learned a couple of useful tricks.

At the end of the day the exhaustion was evident, but still the participants stayed for a while to talk with their groups and discuss the plan for the following days.