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12 things to do before your first hackathon

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Whether you’ve been attending hackathons for years or you’re preparing t0 participate in your very first one, there’s a short list of things to get together before you arrive. We asked our team what they thought was most important and here’s what they said:

Hackbright’s essential hackathon checklist

  1. Do your research! Research the topic or theme beforehand so you’re prepared. There’s nothing worse than registering for a hackathon and showing up the day-of only to find out you don’t know how to get started.
  2. Gather your geeks – this might seem like a no brainer, but it can be hard to build a team. If you’re short on developer friends, check with the hackathon organizers. Often times they’ll have resources for you to connect with other solo developers so you can build your dream team (and meet some cool people).
  3. POWER! Seriously, don’t forget to charge your laptop and bring a charger (phone and laptop). Since most hackathons are at least 24 hours long, if not 48, you’ll need to recharge a couple times. Don’t miss your opportunity because your computer’s battery runs out.
  4. Understand the rules and ask questions! Not only should you research the topic ahead of time, make sure you know what you’re getting into! If something is unclear, ask the organizers. A lot of times there will be an info sheet or even an info session ahead of the event to make sure everyone is on the same page. Don’t be the team that breaks the rules and gets disqualified.
  5. The MVP rules. And we’re not talking about the most valuable player… Work with your team to determine your minimum viable product ASAP. Once you reach your baseline, you can go crazy and add all the enhancements you want.
  6. Don’t stress! Hackathons are for fun, learning, and networking, not competition. If you finish your hack, great! If not, it’s not the end of the world. You still accomplished something. Celebrate your wins!
  7. Speaking of which, NETWORK! Build in some time networking, either in the form of either teaching others or learning from others. This is one of the best parts about hackathons. If you come in with experience, offer to pair program with other people with less experience so that they can get something out of it. If you come in with less experience and are hoping to learn, don’t be afraid to ask to be involved in the parts that you want to learn more about.
  8. Take breaks (or naps,) often. Hackathons are a marathon, not a sprint. Feel free to take breaks so you can recharge and come back to your hack with fresh eyes. (Hint: maybe do a little networking when you take a break?)
  9. Leave enough time for yourself and your team and set realistic goals. Similar to determining your MVP, make sure that you set a goal that can be accomplished. You don’t have to win every hackathon, but it’s nice to be able to present something you can be proud of for judging.
  10. Set up a GitHub. Duh.
  11. Bring SNACKS! Most hackathons will provide food, but let’s be honest, pizza and cookies aren’t necessarily super foods. Pack a stash of brain food that will help keep you sharp. Don’t code hangry.
  12. Pre-install your dev environment. Set up your development environment on your laptop in advance. Make sure you’re ready to hit the ground running. The last thing you want is to spend all your time installing things at a hackathon because you won’t have time to actually build anything. (True story: this has happened to one of our instructors. Learn from her experience!)

Have fun!

Do we really need to say it? We’ll say it again anyway – hackathons are fun! You get the opportunity to meet new people, expand your network, learn / teach fellow developers, and build something cool. What’s not to like about that?

Ready to put your new checklist to good use? Join us at #HackSmart2018 on September 22-23! You’ll get to hack a Tesla Model S via Smartcar’s connected car API, see (or revisit) Hackbright HQ, and make something new. Join our Info Session on Wednesday, September 19 to learn all about the Smartcar API and prepare for the hackathon!


Interested in learning to code? Check out our upcoming Prep Course and our immersive 12-week full-time or 24-week part-time Software Engineering Programs

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