Hackathon; probably you have heard this word from a friend or read it on a Facebook page. But have you ever wondered what does it mean or where does it come from? If you try to look it up in a dictionary or on an online translator you may not get a precise translation.
So, what the heck is a hackathon? Hackathon is a combination of two words: hack and marathon. Basically, these two words say it all; a hackathon is an event in which computer programmers, developers, engineers, designers, and all those who are involved in application development, gather to compete with each other in a short period of time to come up with a new idea of an application (software-related or hardware-related or both). A hackathon usually lasts for at least 24 hours up to couple of days, where teams are limited to that time to design, code, and test their application. Each team is formed from at least one participant up to a certain number specified by the event organizers. At the end, and when the time is up, each team presents their idea to the judges and to the other participants. The judges review all the ideas, discuss with each other, and choose the winner of the hackathon – prizes usually are provided.
I had not participated in a hackathon and didn’t know what it is until I came to IIT. At a tech school like IIT, the idea of hackathons is very welcomed. We have participated in many whether it was locally with our school’s mates on campus or with other schools. Two weeks ago, we won the 1st prize for best app idea in a Microsoft sponsored hackathon here at IIT’s Idea Shop. Participants were students from different universities from Illinois. We worked with two other students we met before the beginning of the hackathon. We chose an idea to work on, we made it in 24 hours, and it led us to the first place.
Our idea was a mobile app; Location-based messaging app that allows users to communicate with each other using augmented reality. User can leave a message for other users at a specific location, so they can see the message by pointing their phone’s camera to that location only if they are nearby that spot. It really feels so good that in short time we were able to come up with new idea, implement it, and making it a real app and the best part is being awarded for it!
So are hackathons about competing and winning? Definitely no. Even though there are prizes and winners, but they are just a motivation to make teams give their best during the event. In fact, the main goal behind hackathons is learning. Yes learning. Participating in a hackathon will let you learn new stuff and collaborate with others in a very short time. You will learn how to use new tools and technologies you will never be taught in school and you always wanted to know more about. In hackathons, you will experience the feeling of working with real world problems because you will work under pressure and you have to know how to manage your time. Furthermore, you will meet new people and have the chance to network with professionals from big companies. Actually, it’s a big chance to show off your work and skills in front of these people, and who knows, they may like you and ask you for a job interview.
After reading this, don’t you agree that hackathons are awesome? For me, I will do my best to participate in every hackathon I can go to and never miss the chance of learning and having the fun I will get from.
Mohamad & Tony
Computer Science Students