Hackathon Field Guide Pt.2

Last week we posted an article on the basics of surviving through a hackathon. Those were just the BASICS, here’s the list of tips to REALLY help you make the most out of the experience! We try to keep it short so feel free to comment below on anything we missed! Let’s start with numero uno:

Sleep
Most hackers won’t sleep but it’s not a bad idea to take a power nap! Some hackers even bring sleeping bags and inflatable pillows. Do whatever you have to but one thing is for sure, GET PLENTY of sleep the night before! Most hackathons are 24 hours (sometimes longer) and when you count in travel time and awards presentations, you’re looking at 36 hours of no sleep. Power naps of 20 minutes or less are good; after 20 minutes and your body goes into REM mode leaving you groggy upon waking up.

Take Breaks
Speaking of naps, take lots of breaks! You can’t keep working hours on end without getting unproductive at some point. Hackathons often have mini events for participants to join in and meet other hacker peers. EduHacks 2017 had cup stacking with MLH, hip-hop dancing and a paper airplane contest! Not everyone is an extrovert but every hackathon attendee is generally open to meeting people – so strike up a conversation with a stranger!

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Build A Good SIMPLE Product
A simple working product is better than an extravagant one with a bunch of bugs and glitches. No good hacker wants to hand in an imperfect project but it’s important to get the fundamentals and core functions done before working on details. Of course, there are a variety of themed prizes at a hackathon so you have to choose which things to prioritize on e.g. design, innovativeness etc. Prioritize on a few things for your project and make them perfect, remember you’re pitching a prototype and you’ve only got a few hours!

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Restarting Is OK!
If you start working on a product but realize it’s not working a few hours in, don’t be afraid to start over. There’s no point in continuing working on a project when you’ve realized it’s definitely not going to turn out welll. Most likely, this dead-end project will create additional problems and challenges to hurdle your way. If the team can come to a consensus, shift the direction you’re going towards and design a new project (perhaps, based on what you already have).

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Use Third-Party Services
During a hackathon, time is not your friend – your team does not have the time to create everything from scratch. You should not be handling hosting, e-mailing, payment functions etc. yourself. Most hackathons will happily accept stock visuals for your project such as 3D models for AR projects. If you had to make that 3D model from scratch that would take you hours that could have been spent on perfecting code instead. There is little value in creating these parts yourself, you want to make an innovative project that hasn’t existed yet – that’s where your efforts should go towards, the innovation!

Image may contain: one or more people and phone(BookAR, first-place winner of HackHub’s HackDay, used 3D visuals from TurboSquid)

Presentation Is Everything!
Your app could be the most amazing thing in the world to you but it won’t mean jack if you don’t communicate it to the judges properly.Think of the questions they may throw at you. It can be hard to find flaws in a project you’ve been staring at for 24 hours straight – asking someone outside the group for their opinion could be beneficial! Also, keep in mind where the judges are coming from. Entrepreneurial judges will be excited about your project’s business potential. Techy judges will be interested about your back-end system and programs you used. No matter how great your presentation skills are, your pitch should not be thrown together last minute – practice makes perfect!

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There you have it! Six tips to help you conquer your next hackathon adventure! Comment below if we’re missing anything 🙂 

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