What is a Hackathon?
Hackathon. I am sure that you have heard this term before, but unless you work in the tech industry, you probably don’t know exactly what it means. I mean on the face of it, the term sounds sexy and cool, but what exactly does it mean and what does it encompass?
Remember back in high school or college when you would drink a bunch of caffeine and stay up all night to prepare for a test? Now imagine a room full of programmers, coders, and creatives doing the same thing for an entire day or even a week. Instead of cramming, they are competing to create prototypes that innovate on a theme or improve upon an existing project. It’s called a hackathon, and it is has become a regular part of how technology companies and organizations do business. In fact, the power of the hackathon has extended beyond the tech industry into many other sectors.
The term hackathon derives from the work word marathon, which we know as a long or difficult task. The “hack” prefix represents exploratory coding. The programmers work a fast pace, often going without sleep to complete the project. The event typically lasts 24-48 hours but can last as long as a week. Beforehand, participates are told the programming language, the operating system, etc. that they will be working with. Hackathons are widely popular, and the community that is growing around them is expanding at an exponential rate. Many hackathons also host professional development sessions, guest speakers, and networking opportunities.
Hackathons started in the open source community. You can find various kinds of hackathons, mainly meant for educational, social, or commercial matters. For businesses, it is a low-cost way to develop products.
The shorter the duration of the hackathon, the more pressure the participants are exposed to. Participants usually receive very little sleep, often taking short naps onsite in sleeping bags. You will find widespread use of stimulants, as participants need to be alert and focused for long stretches of time. As far as eating is concerned, participants usually consume food that can be eaten quickly and efficiently, like pizza or burritos.
What should participants know?
If you are participating in a hackathon, there are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind.
Having a good pitch is pivotal. Why is the pitch such a vital part of the hackathon? Most hackathons are competitions, and people enter competitions to win. That’s why you need to be able to sell people on your idea, and you do this with a good pitch. The judges, participants, and audience will all be expecting a top-notch presentation from you, and you better exude confidence. If you are only there to have fun, and you don’t care about winning, then the pitch may not be as important.
Choose an award-winning team. When choosing the members of your team, make sure that you are strategic in your thinking. You want people that are smart, good communicators, professional, etc. You also want them to be hard-working and have the endurance of a marathoner. Having people with different skill sets and backgrounds is also very important. In your pitch, you can include your requirements for potential members of your team.
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