What is a Hackathon?
Derived from the words, ‘hacker’ and ‘marathon’, the word hackathon in a literal sense gives the meaning of a coding marathon. A hackathon is a kind of social event for programmers from all around, in which the participants are welcomed to work upon a complex coding problem like, developing new software or improving existing software, pitching a business idea for a particular field, etc. It is usually a day long, but sometimes, it might stretch to 48 hours or even more, depending upon the level of difficulty and complexity involved. Often, hackathons are referred to by several other relevant names like code fest, hack day, or hack fest. This article helps you to explore the outstanding hackathon ideas to help you win your next hackathon, and begin a successful career.
Hackathons held by the engineering and development teams are a way of introducing intrapreneurship in a web-based business. These hackathons usually have a business goal associated with them. Moreover, a hackathon can be seen as a golden opportunity for the enterprises to scoop out some fine innovative employee ideas in a healthy, low-risk environment. It allows inter-department collaboration among the employees to work upon a certain problem statement without feeling the exhausting pressure to come up with a feasible product.
How can Participating in Hackathons help you?
Participating in hackathons is undeniably fruitful for the freshers as well as professionals in several ways:
- Risk-free, fast learning environment: Hackathons are a powerful means to create a healthy and competitive environment that motivates the participants to think out of the box. Participating in hackathons can give you a generous exposure to the creative ideas that other participants can also help you think in a more innovative way and sometimes in a whole new direction. Besides, there is no faster way of learning than trying your hands on complex problems by participating in hackathons.
- Growth of technical and interpersonal skills: Participating in hackathons that take place from time to time can help in growing one’s IT as well as interpersonal skills such as problem-solving, time management, etc. Hackathons let you apply your own approaches and methods to solve some really complex problems that you are not free to do when dealing with real-world problems as a regular developer in ordinary times. They can even change your entire approach to solving any problem. Corporate hackathons can be a viable source of encouragement for the participants to foster better management skills, team building, collaboration, and other business-oriented skills.
- Self-evaluation and Improved employability: Hackathons might prove to be an excellent medium for doing a self-analysis of one’s skills. They can help you know better about your minus points and work upon them. It can help you learn about the latest trends, tools, technologies, and the most sought-after skills in the market. You might end up getting a strong lead to new and better career opportunities and openings. Hence, we can say that hackathons tend to increase your employability since regular participants of a hackathon are prone to growth and development.
- Exposure and Recommendation: Hackathons bring professionals from various industry backgrounds together that can help the participants to gain an insight into the working patterns of different industries. Starting from the generation of an idea to the development of a solution, the participants get exposure to various industry verticals that broadens their vision and outlook. Further, doing well in the hackathons can lead you to be scouted by some top-level companies sometimes. You get a chance to meet and collaborate with like-minded professionals who might turn into profitable connections or references later.
What are the tips to win a hackathon?
If you are a rookie participant, know that there are some useful tips that can help you win. Now, if you have the experience of participating in more than five hackathons or so, you might already have learned about some of these beneficial tricks and tips to win a hackathon. Let’s see what those tips are:
- Research & Planning: If you are determined to win, you must be well equipped with all the relevant information and skills. Gather information about the hackathon you are going to participate in beforehand. Research about the field the hackathon is being conducted in to hone the required skills. Prepare and set up all the components like templates, GitHub repositories, etc. that can help you build prototypes faster, in advance. Practice together with your teammates to strengthen your team’s strengths and work upon your team’s weaknesses. Discuss and assign roles to each member depending on the team’s needs and the member’s skills.
- Building a good team: A good team means half victory. Smooth communication among the group members is necessary. A strong team consists of people from different backgrounds such as frontend and backend development, business development, graphic designing, and so on. Having members that have a prior hackathon experience can be a plus point. The team members must be able to share the vision and mission of the team.
- Drilling into ideas & choosing MVP: Another important factor is picking the right idea. Not every idea is easy to implement within given resources and timespan. The idea must be executable from each team player’s point of view. Focus on the problem statement and the target audience to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You must be able to pitch your product well.
- Brainstorming & Concept Validation: Brainstorming sessions can help the team come up with innovative and suitable ideas for the hackathon. Have clear and concise know-how of the solution you are building. Discuss the dependencies, checkpoints, priorities, and bottlenecks with your team. Concept validation is a must before you jump into prototype designing and further product development.
- Know your target audience & make a good presentation: Talking to potential end-users and customers can help you create a more viable solution. Knowing their pain points will help you know where to focus more. Try to know about the evaluating criteria of the judges and sponsors. You will be able to get the attention of your audience by including the key points in your presentation too. Invest some time in your presentation. Try to make it crisp and concise.
- Adopt a correct approach and go for short breaks: Right beginning is very important for a successful end. Thus, adopting the right approach from the start is quite essential. It might get exhausting at times that can drain you of ideas and enthusiasm. Keep taking short breaks to refresh your mind.
Winning is not solely about bagging the first place in a hackathon, it is about learning as much as you can. Even though, coming to the first place in a hackathon can really boost your confidence and motivate you to participate in more hackathons, the real treasure of a hackathon is learning new things.
What are some topics that can help you win a hackathon?
- There are several topics that are most likely to appeal to the judges and sponsors, further acquiring the first position. Some of the popular chart-winning projects usually belong from the domains of web development, gaming, data science, machine learning, etc.
Types of Hackathons
- For an application type
In application-based hackathons, the problem statement revolves around developing an application. Another possibility is that the aim of the hackathon can be improving or extension of features in a pre-existing app.
- Using a particular programming language, API, or structure
Another type of hackathon is based on using a particular language, API, or structure. Here, what you build is not important; rather how you use a certain programming language, API, or structure to implement a creative idea is what holds the main spotlight.
- As a tribute or a memorial
Several hackathons are organised to pay a tribute or memorial to some of the greatest computer brainiacs in history. For example, in 2013, a memorial hackathon was organised in which smart tech minds gathered in workshops from Boston to Bangalore to pay a global tribute to Aaron Swartz.
- For a demographic society
Hackathons with an aim to build better solutions concerning the demographic society, often for the welfare of the mass, are another type of hackathons. The problem statement is related to the general demography and the sought-after solution is built using the relevant demographic data.
- For internal change and motive
Organizations often carry out a hackathon for internal change or development. The hackathon is tied up with a certain motive. For instance, a hackathon can be conducted with a motive to identify the best team with a great product implementation or business growth idea
- To relate to local tech communities
There are some community-level hackathons that are organized with an aim to relate the potential tech minds to local tech communities. Such hackathons help in bringing like-minded techies together that open up greater opportunities to collaborate, before them.
- Code sprints
Then there are some other hackathons that are solely dedicated to coding. It can be network-based, or hacking related, etc. in which coding is the main focus, tracing a highly encrypted IP address for instance.
Best Ideas for Hackathon
- Develop a Creative Blog: One of the most popular hackathon ideas is developing a creative blog. You can start off by choosing a blog that has an appealing layout that can be copied during the set duration of the hackathon. It is the best way you can showcase your web designing skills.
- Practical Exam Database: Another potential hackathon idea is creating a database with practice exam papers related to a specific course or class. It would serve as a great resource for students preparing for that course. The more interactive and user-friendly interface it has, the better to display your team’s skills in the field of data structure, algorithms, as well as design.
- Data Visualization projects using Python programs: One of the coveted skills in the field of Data Science, Data Visualization definitely makes a top-notch hackathon idea. You are supposed to have an excellent knowledge of the Python Data Science libraries to be able to build a heart-winning data visualization project for your audience.
- Ambulance Tracker: Now an Ambulance Tracker makes a real helpful hackathon project idea. Now, imagine the level of desperation the family members of a patient have when they call for an ambulance. How good it would be if one could book and track an ambulance as in a cab app like Uber or Ola. The route navigation system can even help ambulance drivers to opt for the best route with less traffic. While building such an app can help you hone your networking and algorithm skills, it can be a great source of learning many other new skills too.
- Facial Recognition for Celebrities: Facial recognition systems are one of the most common and favoured AI-ML projects. You can create a system that detects and recognizes the faces of the celebrities in a given music video.
- Stock Market with Active Tips for Beginners: Stock price prediction models have always been a hot topic when it comes to ML modelling. Nevertheless, developing a system that not only notifies the users of the latest stock trends but also shares pro tips with beginners and helps them invest smartly, stands as another outstanding hackathon project idea.
- Intelligent Chatbots to solve problems: Automation and AI are the talks of the town, so why not build an efficient chatbot. You should have a fluent knowledge of Python, NLP (Natural Language Processing), AI (Artificial Intelligence), and automation tools like UiPath, Blue Prism, etc. to be able to build a powerful chatbot for your problem.
- Artificial Intelligence-Based Solutions for Corporate Employees: Imagine an Artificial Intelligence-based solution that could assist the corporate employees in their basic jobs like sending mails, organising calendars, finding files, and so on. Sounds so much like getting convenience-on-finger-tips, right? This is exactly why creating such AI-based solutions for the employees of the corporate sector is an outstanding hackathon project idea.
Smart Butler: Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IOT), Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Deep Learning bring you another fantastic project idea, a smart butler. You can go for building a robotic butler that is capable of doing simple chores such as bringing you a glass of juice, serving you food, making your bed, etc. It is indeed a complex idea to implement but can guarantee you good scores in the hackathon.
A hackathon is a time-bound event for developing a solution for a real-world problem. There are different teams competing with each other to curate the best solution ideas and come up with a prototype or finished prototype by the end of the hackathon.
An ideal way to organize a virtual hackathon has been described in a nut-shell in the following steps:
1. First, identify the type of hackathon you want to organize
2. Schedule the ideal date for your hackathon. It’s better to have a 3-4 day long hackathon event, instead of having a 48-hour event
3. Reach out to potential partners
4. Plan out a working schedule and establish a code of conduct
5. Create a website for registration, promotion and update purposes. Adopt smart promotional strategies
6. Design a registration form that can help you assess the seriousness of the participants regarding the hackathon
7. Conduct online meetings or webinars to attract more participants. Reach out to the audience and participants via social media.
8. Select the best ideas and inform the corresponding teams
9. Keep a track of how the selected teams are progressing. Set milestones like idea documentation, project demo, progress report, project video, and final submission.
10. Nominate a diverse panel of judges, belonging to different domains like IT, marketing, and project.
11. Announce the winners
Research and analyse which project ideas suit the skillset of your team the best. You can check out some online blogs on hackathon ideas too. You can talk to colleagues, friends or seniors who have a good experience in hackathons.
Having a strong hackathon community leads to successful and valuable hackathons. Encourage the newcomers and provide them sufficient time and space to think and execute. The more the participants get to learn, the better.
Computer programming, project management, teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, designing, marketing, pitching, communication, and presentation are some of the common must-have skills for participating in a hackathon.
Hackathons definitely add stars to your resume. If you are looking for opportunities that will boost your cv, then participating in a hackathon is a good call.
Hackathons can be of the following types –
1. For an application type
2. Using a particular programming language, API, or structure
3. As a tribute or a memorial
4. For a demographic society
5. For internal change and motive
6. To relate to local tech communities
7. Code sprints
Hackathons usually last for 36 to 48 hours, However, in the case of virtual hackathons, the event can be extended to 3-4 days.
Yes, beginners are welcome to join the hackathons. However, the team members must fulfil the set criteria for the participants
The motive behind conducting hackathons is generating worthy actionable business and product ideas. The side objectives of hackathons include encouraging the employees or the participants to think out of the box, creating a safe space for learning and experimenting, opening career opportunities, enabling quality collaborations, and helping the participants build connections within the community.
Source: GreatLearning Blog