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Jerry Zhu for Codédex

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Attending Your First Hackathon: Tips And Tricks

What do you think of when I say the word “hackathon”? Is it a group of people in black hoodies in the dark typing fiendishly in the terminal?

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In this article, you will learn what a hackathon is, tips and tricks to achieve your goals, and how to get the most out of your hackathon experience! 🚀

What is a Hackathon?

A hackathon is usually a 24-48 hour event where programmers, or “hackers”, get together and create cool projects together! Hackers get together in groups of 2-4 to build a project about something they are passionate about. Although building a project and getting judged on it is the bulk of the hackathon experience, it is definitely not the only thing happening!

There are also several types of events happening in tandem, including activities, workshops, and networking events, as well as food! In terms of networking, there will be sponsor booths, where you can talk to representatives from companies, and hacker meetups. Being able to manage your time given everything that is going on around you can be tricky.

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Here are a few tips and tricks!

1. Do Your Research Beforehand

Before going into the hackathon, do some research into what the hackathon is about. This can be as simple as reading the FAQ, or looking at prizes and sponsors. You should have a good idea of what the theme is (if there is one), which prizes you want to go for, and which sponsor libraries you are interested in. Having these things in mind will help you plan your hackathon project better.

2. Project Idea and Schedule

During the hackathon, you will have to work with a team to think of an idea. As such, it would be beneficial to think of an idea beforehand. A great way to come up with an idea is to think about a problem you’d like to see solved, whether it be in your life, community, or the world! You can sculpt a potential solution through real world issues you want to tackle!

For experienced hackers, a great way to plan ahead of time is to look at the hackathon schedule, and create a Google Calendar based on what you want to be doing during those times. Although unexpected things could happen, knowing approximately how much time you want to commit to each part of the hackathon will go a long way in making it more successful!

However, in order to plan your schedule, you must know your strengths and weaknesses.

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3. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

This is an extremely crucial point when tackling your project during the hackathon. Make sure that you know exactly what you want to accomplish, and what is required to get there.

In terms of libraries, reach out to your team to see what they are comfortable with, and how to align them with the project.

For example:

  • For complete code newbies, using HTML/CSS or no-code libraries like Bubble or Adalo could be a great suggestion for deployment.
  • For less experienced programmers, HTML/CSS/JavaScript are great languages for building a website and hosting it on, Glitch, or GitHub pages.
  • For more experienced programmers, look into Python or JavaScript libraries for a more complex application. You can deploy it on Netlify or Vercel and use a database, or look into cloud services and containerization.

However, don’t do something you are not super comfortable with: after all, there are only 24 hours, so if you have looked into a framework but have no idea how it works, maybe look into a simpler one.

Knowing your strengths when it comes to learning new libraries is also important when deciding sponsor or prize categories to pursue. Going out of your way to learn a difficult tool or library for a prize may be tempting, but it might be more beneficial to stick to the basics.


4. Manage Your Time Well

To do well at a hackathon, it is extremely important to manage your time well. There are so many things going on during a hackathon, and it can be overwhelming to try to do all of them while also wanting to focus on your project. Having a point of focus is very important.

  • If you care about your project more, spend less time going to events.
  • If you want to build a network and have fun, go to activities and sponsor booths.
  • If you want to learn more about coding, attend workshops and reach out to mentors.
  • If you really want to win, make sure to spend an ample amount of time on the pitch.

Don’t be afraid to have fun, but also make sure you achieve what you want to!

5. Take Away Something

The most important thing is to take something away from the hackathon! Maybe it’s the friends and connections you made, maybe it’s the tools and libraries you learned, and maybe it’s the project you just made that can be added to your resume or personal portfolio. In any case, learning something from a hackathon, and gaining experience, will help your next hackathon experience be even better.

Feel free to utilize these tips the next time you’re at a hackathon. Remember, as long as you’re having fun, you’re succeeding!

Go put yourself out there and happy hacking 💻!

Jerry from Codédex

Top comments (6)

normaltheclown profile image
Malcolm Ridenour

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bobliuuu profile image
Jerry Zhu


sonnynomnom profile image
Sonny Li

I'm a Jerry-fan.

chloe_lee_5cd81034f43ec26 profile image
Chloe Lee

wow this is so cool

sonnynomnom profile image
Sonny Li

@bobliuuu with the hits again!

bobliuuu profile image
Jerry Zhu

Thanks @sonnynomnom!

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