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Beginners Guide to Hackathons

Hari Pranav A
Engineering . Blockchain . Networking
・6 min read

Hackathons

What is a Hackathon ??

  • A hackathon is an event in which a team of open minded ,creative people come together and try to solve a real world problem . A "Team" can consist of a mix of non-technical people , designers , thinkers, artists , developers who are diverse in their age as well as skill sets .Some of them may be in their 7th grade and some of them may have a PhD.

  • These events usually spans for 24 , 48 hours and they are usually conducted on the weekends .

  • In this limited time the problem statement is given on spot and sometimes the team formation is done in the event itself .

Why Should You Attend a Hackathon ??

  • To put into perspective imagine that you are attending your first "HACK" and you get paired up with a team of people who you have never met before , you are not familiar with each others skills ,strengths and weaknesses, How will you manage to come with a solution to a given problem within the time limit specified ??

Sounds challenging right , Don't worry these events will help you develop some of the core skills needed in the industry which can be learnt in the the course of a night or two. The skills that you will develop are:

  1. Communication
  2. Leadership
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Teamwork
  5. Coordination
  6. Deal with conflicts
  7. Crisis Management

GOT

  • We can also consider hackathons as a crash course in becoming a CREATOR or an Entrepreneur or a MAKER !!.

Sounds Wicked Right ??

  • Apart from this many of the attendees come to hackathons to "Network" . Networking is considered a very effective way of marketing a company , it also helps to recruit new talent and also meet new creative people with whom you may form a lifelong journey of building products.

  • The amazing part of a hackathon is that you can find people who have the same "Vibe" and way of thinking as you do.
    Plus if you are a student you get free attendance, Free merch ,Free Swag and tons of confidence and knowledge that you can take away from the event .
    What's there to lose ????
    Register For one immediately !!!!

Types of Hackathons :

Internal Hackathons :

  • These are usually within the companies and they encourage the employees to collaborate with each other.

External Hackathons :

  • This is the one to look out for especially for students and people looking out for jobs ,Companies are changing their hiring strategy by putting up challenges for potential employees and students to take part in .

  • The Main reason is that the companies want to test the potential employees capability in solving a problem in a limited period of time with limited knowledge and resources , this model of employment also greatly reduces the burden on the company as they don't have to allocate extra budget for training and recruitment of their employees .

  • In today's world of startup's it is crucial to adapt to changes by doing code sprints which last all night long!
    What better to experience this culture of the "Startup Culture" .

Online and Offline Hackathons:

  • They can be online in the various online platforms such as HackerEarh , MLH ..

  • Personally I really enjoy attending the offline hackathons as they are mostly held in beautiful venues like Co-Working spaces and huge office campuses such as Microsoft and Google .

  • The entire space is given towards the event in which you can experience the culture , the delicious food ,this opens up a new level of work culture , many venues have game centers with games like pool and table tennis , dedicated gyms and a great cafeteria .

Tools For a Hack

Github :

  • What is github ?? in simple terms imagine that multiple people are working on a project with new ideas and updates , How do you ensure that two people have not done the same work twice , or how do you assure that the version of the code is the latest one free of bugs , Introducing Version Control , Github helps teams to manage the entire process of writing and deploying code . The best part is Github offers their student pack which gives students with a valid ID free goodies/tools worth 200k $

Get yours here

Github student pack

Discord (Free Voice chat for Gamers)

  • What good is a hackathon without collaboration and communication ??

  • Discord is one of the most versatile tools that can be used in a hack ,
    -You can create private servers
    -Create voice channels
    -Bots
    -Music Channels

Discord

Google Suite(Slides,Docs,Tasks,Keep)

  • The entire GSuite is a blessing to have in a hack , The true value of real time collaboration can only be appreciated when there are only 15 minutes to submit the solution to a hack !!! XD .

  • These tools are a life saver , when most of the participants have different operating systems with different word processors and applications.

  • It takes away the pain of transferring files on usb.
    One can even collaboratively write books and articles ,brainstorm ideas using these tools.

  • The only thing is that a stable internet is necessary as these are mostly cloud based .

Gsuite

Official Docs,StackOverflow,YouTube,Reddit,Google

  • The official Guides may have a lot of resources , but a beginner might find it difficult to find out how to use it.

  • Stackoverflow and Youtube tutorials to the rescue !! the support , solutions and videos on these platforms can be used to develop a quick prototype !!

  • These tools are like your personal Genie , Error in your code ,Just paste the error to get a solution :>

StackOverflow

Reddit

Magic Buzz Words That Win a Hack

BAT - Blockchain , IOT , AI

  • In most of the hacks if the teams have implemented a solution with these technologies and if they actually make sense then it can surely secure them a spot in the top 5 hacks.

Lets consider a scenario of a problem statement related to Farming

We can easily use these technologies as shown below

  1. IOT-Sensors send the data to the cloud where the plant health can be monitored

  2. AI / Machine Learning- Analise the data and build models to predict , and improve the efficiency of the crop growth.

  3. Blockchain: Immutable ledger to record the data and land records !!

Here you go you are in the top three teams for the most innovative idea :)

Your Hack will look something like this !!

Homer

Choosing Teammates

LOLXD

  • The best way to sail through a hack is to form a team a day before the event begins and always have a backup team member in case someone bails .

  • It is always good to have someone in the team who knows how to make really good ppts, and also people who can express the project with humour , basically find someone who knows their Memes ;>.

  • The above point cannot be stressed enough because the main judging criteria of a hack is usually how the presentation is done , just imagine the fate of the judges , they have to select the best team from a group of 300 odd people .

  • Humor and presentation skills , answering to the point will definitely help your team leave a good impression on the fatigued judges :)

  • Last but not least have an app / web developer who can quickly prototype a webpage/app to demonstrate the workflow of your idea.

Coming to the most important part about a hack !!

Never quit in the middle

  • It is understandable that a beginner who has never been or heard of a hackathon cannot come up with a fully working product / prototype in a single night ,

  • The best part of a hackathon is that you don't need to come up with a fully working solution !!

  • The judging criteria will have many parameters and most of the marks that distinguish a better solution is uniqueness of the idea , method of implementation , presentation and workflow .

  • It is totally understandable if you didn't finish what you intended to do , but always make sure that you can present what you intended to do with confidence to the judges , work on your idea to such an extent that it is foolproof , use diagrams/charts/illustrations to describe your workflow !!

  • And at the end after all the hard work even if you lose or feel disheartened do not give up ,

Research

  • Take home the idea or hack and keep working on it , Upload it to git , Write an article or a blog-post about the idea .

  • Describe the difficulties faced and the solutions for the various problems faced, this will help future hackers on their journey as well !!

  • Finally you can also apply to different hacks with the same idea (if it is allowed) and hopefully Luck will strike you there !!

Some resources to kick start your journey

MLH
TechGig
DoraHacks
HackerEarth
AngelHack

Cheers !!!

Keeping all of this in mind I wanted to develop an app for beginners to start of on their hackathon journey

All of this and more in the next Article

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