Hackathons ~ What are those?
You know that place you always dream of with all the candy, chips, cookies, cupcakes, unicorns, and other delicious snacks all at your fingertips. You can get all of that at hackathons, except the unicorn part. I was joking about that, but you get the point.
The perfect environment for students to stuff themselves and enjoy themselves building awesome projects they never got around to working on.The ideal hackathon environment is friendly, playful, inviting, inspiring and full of people filled with ideas and inspiration.
Hackathons started as a group of students that would meet together and just create … simply building and tinkering. It then outgrew that, but it is still at its core a place to create but with a little additional competition and some prizes to spruce things up.
From a Padawan to a Jedi
As a young C.S. student, like many others I came to college without any sort of programming experience. Going through my introductory C.S. courses I learned some core concepts and made some basic programs like for loops and upside down triangle functions but that was the extent to what I did in school.
What I lacked was the understanding of the power I held in my hands of what I could do with this knowledge. I lacked direction and a place to go to meet people who were in the process of understanding their potential. I lacked mentors and inspiration. I lacked a good environment to work in.
That changed when some friends introduced me to hackathons. They encouraged me to go to a hackathon and I agreed. I hate to give you the cliche it changed my life story, but it is true. I remember it very distinctly. I went to the Code Red Hackathon at the University of Houston, where I stepped into the world of hackathons.
I came in with the idea that I do not know anything and so I would not be able to accomplish anything. Obviously, that idea was very wrong, and I ended up discovering my passion for mobile app development.
Why should You Care ?
In the process of creating my project, I met fellow peers that mentored me and wanted me to grow and be successful. I met people who were building startups, people who made a crazy eye disease detection software from just an image of the eye and many others
Here’s an overview:
- Networking – You get to meet tech nerds, business people, designers, and a bunch of rockstars. I have met people I would have never met otherwise.
- Jobs – I know you wanna hear that. The companies that sponsor the hackathons are normally looking to hire people at these events so it is a great opportunity to connect with some potential employers
- Mentorship – There are people in the community that are experts on things you would not have otherwise be able to get help on. Use them. Learn from them. Who knows you might even find a long term mentor.
- Teamwork – The definition of a high stress environment is no sleep, insane deadlines and working with teammates you potentially don’t know. If you can survive this then you will unstoppable in almost any working environment. It pushes you to your limits and the process lets you grow to work with almost anyone.
- Portfolio – I am sure everyone has ideas of a project they would do if only they had time. This is that time. Build your idea and grow your portfolio at the same time.
- Confidence – As a rookie I came in with no confidence in my coding abilities. You can bet that is not the case now with the constant hammering of new technologies and various obstacles I have faced at hackathons. You build your skills and you build your confidence.
There are so many different types of people. Yes, it is a place where traditionally you see many programmers but to create a winning project you need a mix of everyone, which includes programmers, designers, thinkers and business savvy folks so don’t be discouraged if you are not a programmer.
Since then, I have been to over twenty hackathons and have won prizes in more than half of them, so I have been around the block. Share this post with your friends and get them to go to a hackathon. Watch out for my next post on how to consistently place at hackathons.
Let them be inspired to build awesome projects and meet inspiring people.
Stop, Drop, BUILD
Why are you still here? I would expect by this point you are all over Major League Hackers (MLH). Go sign up on their website for the next hackathon and make your friends go as well !