Hackathons are a blast, and something I personally enjoy. However it always causes confusion when I try to explain them to people who aren’t really in the Tech Scene. Most people imagine a group of people with sunglasses and trench coats sitting in a circle typing furiously and then shouting “I’m in!”.

"We're in!" - People at Hackathons

Hackathon in progress

I’ve only been really into coding since I started university so that is where my Hackathon experience starts.  However I did have some Hackathon like experiences before university.

Coding Before University

Before I was in university I was only coding in small amounts of C++ and Java. Unfortunately my school didn’t offer anything in terms of coding courses. I also never heard of any opportunities to attend hackathons. The closest thing to a hackathon I participated in was me and two friends attempting to make a video game. Which resolved several long days huddled around laptops in a basement coding furiously (It didn’t help none of us  knew what we were doing).

I’m sure there were hackathons happening locally before I went to University, However, I didn’t really attend any until University Hackathons

Hackathons during University

While I was in university I attended hackathons every now and then. At that time I was mostly coding in Java. Java is not super conducive for doing work at a Hackathon. Between compile times and the work required  to even have a basic UI (Swing is a terrible terrible thing.) it slows you down.

Most of the hackathons I attended were weekend long events where everyone either stayed late or crashed on the floor. Usually they involved pizza and beer. Those were pretty wild events, very few resulted in victory but they were always fun. One hackathon resulted in a simulation of plants that existed over multiple generations. There was even a few text based RPG’s and Adventures of varying complexity.

Hackathons at UIT

We did two hackathons at UIT which were both amazingly fun experiences. The first was a fun halloween exercise which gave us a fun opportunity to work together. At that point we were all pretty early on in our learning process and most of the webpage my team built was simply jQuery.

The second was recent where I got a chance to team up with Bobby and Andrew, who I hadn’t worked with before. At this point we were all further in our learning and we were able to create some pretty hilarious webapps. This time around we ended up using React, Express, and all sorts of packages there was a clear upgrade in the Hackathon projects.

There were a great chance to work together to practice cooperation and make something fun.

In conclusion

Hackathons were very intimidating to me where I was first deciding to go. I expected that everyone there would be expert coders. That me as a first year would know nothing and not contribute. However that is rarely the case and more often then not hackathons are a great opportunity to hone your skills in a fast paced and sometimes chaotic environment.

I will continue to take part in Hackathons when I get the chance, and would really like to see a hackathon scene like in Halifax. Where just every few weeks you can find one to attend.

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