17 May 2021

How to Get the Most Out of a Hackathon: Virtual Edition


This article will be taking you through what to expect when you attend an online hackathon and some tricks and tips to make the most of your time.

Step 1 – Finding A Hackathon To Enter

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This is one of the trickier parts of the process as there is such a range of hackathons you are able to enter, it’s often difficult to know where to start. Major League Hacks is one of the central hubs that hold information about hackathons that are being hosted and you are able to filter them to find your ideal one. In order to narrow it down some things to consider are: how long would you like it to be – normally they are 24 or 48 hours; what age range can enter – is it for undergraduates, high schoolers or professionals?; is it a female/non-binary hackathon – I highly recommend these if you’re eligible, I’ve taken part in multiple and they are always extremely welcoming and fun.

Step 2 – Forming A Team

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Once you’ve registered for your hackathon you will have to find a team to work with (normally comprised of 2-6 people) and though this may sound daunting I promise you it is very easy to do. Even if the hackathon allows you to work on your own it is advisable to join a team as you make great friends, can bounce ideas off of each other and the work is split up so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Usually, hackathons have a discord server where you are able to find team members to work with. Lots of them will also have team forming events and if you’re still unable to find a team reach out to one of the organisers who will be more than happy to help you. Everyone has different experiences and so don’t worry if you aren’t the strongest coder; a variety of skills are needed to produce the final project!

Step 3 – Creating Your Hack

The main aim of the hackathon is to produce a product and that is entirely up to your group to decide what you want to make! Lots of teams enter with apps, websites, prototypes but that’s not a limit by any means. If you look at the judging criteria you can get an idea of what your project needs to show and each of the categories of entry will help guide your ideas. At the end you also need to create a video where you demo what you’ve developed and explain why you chose to make the hack you did.

Top Tips!!

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  1. You don’t need to pull an all-nighter during the hackathon if you communicate with your team effectively about what tasks need doing it is easy to avoid
  2. Attend the workshops and events they’re really useful and allow you to network
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something new whether that be a platform or coding language
  4. Make sure you start on your video at least a couple of hours before the deadline – they take more time than you’d think
  5. Submit a hack even if it’s not finished you should be proud and show everyone what you’ve achieved and who knows it might end up doing really well

Most importantly though, hackathons are all about having fun, learning new things and making friends – online ones mean you meet people from all around the world!

This article was written by Annabel Lowe, a year 12 Stemette Society member.

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