Participant to Organizer
A six month period of my life where my views on technology, community, and hard-work changed.
lack screens, white lines of code, and strange symbols — walking through a hackathon with an untrained eye that's all one would see. For others, the hackathon floors are a breeding ground of innovation & collaboration. Whether one is coming in as an individual or a part of a team, the mission is the same create. Some come in with an idea they believe will chance the world, others come equipped with the skills needed to help other achieve that idea. Whichever one you are, it matters not, it’s for the fun of the hack. These students, retreat to the comfort of their computers not for the completion of classwork or assignments due, but to accomplish a task and solve the unsolved.
My summer in Detroit, Michigan was my introduction to hackers and the hackathon environment.
— As an intern for Quicken Loans I quickly met with others interns, one in particular told me about a weekend at the University of Michigan where students from all around collect and work on their ideas. I was hooked, we developed an idea, and decided that we are definitely going with an open mind of creation — we just wanted to get something done.
Friday, September 5th: It was EPIC. Walking through the main hallway sponsors on both sides handing out free t-shirts, drones flying in the air, smell of coffee brewing was already in the air. Our team made up of two individuals who had just met three months before, quickly met another students looking to create with us. We settled in a room and prepared to be up for the next thirty six hours. After I explained my thought about the idea and we got hacking.
Saturday: 2 am — not tired yet. 5 am — still coding, but the RedBull is no longer working. 8 am — ehh sleep. 2 pm — back on the computers, our eyes hurt, but we are determined to at least finish something by the end of the competition.
Sunday: 9 am — we finished enough. Our stomachs’ full, brains’ dead, and fingers’ hurt. Now for the part we have been waiting for the student hack expo. 430 teams showed their hack to the world that Sunday, as I was walking through the hallways everything inspired me. These students who did not waste away their weekend partying or participating in other college shenanigans created something that beforehand did not exist in the world. That is the magic. That’s what makes hackathons amazing.
DelHack was born.
y school desperately needed something like this, to connect all the tech minded student and create a community that we previously did not have. So in the summer before I even attended Mhacks I formulated the plan that would become the biggest & first student hackathon in Delaware. During my planning I connected with my school’s Association Computer of Machinery and we got to work. Well before the fall semester started we were brainstorming on how to make our own university’s hackathon epic in its own way. We wanted something unique that would fit our school in the right way. Our tech community is small, unconnected, and unacquainted with hackathons. In order for our event to be successful we had to market the sh*t out of it.
Sponsors — these companies who dedicate labor, capital, and other resources are essential to the creation of this event. Money runs hackathon; food costs are enormous, facilities & maintenance, emergency and miscellaneous costs (which always come up).
Organization Team — the team makes the hackathon. Long nights planning and impromptu meetings will rule your life, be prepared for this. They are your backup and the key to toning down your stress levels.
The School — they can make it or break it. Work with your school, they want innovation and will help push you to the top in every way.
The Day Of
Prepare yourself the time has come. All this time and effort you have been putting into this day working towards this event will pay off... after it’s done. Time for the all the participants and organizers to be up for twenty four hours. The agenda and timing have all been worked out already, now it’s the time to follow through. It is an awesome, high energy event in which you will meet people who think like you and want to accomplish a prompt.
Every three hours food rolls in, eyes glaze, and people are conflicted between filling their stomachs and breaking their focus. There is electricity in the room (literally) and mentally, people are hacking into their hardware, writing lines of code, and interacting on white boards. It’s exciting to see how a team starts from nothing and delivers a product in such a short amount of time.
Note to Self
“The Only Source of Knowledge is Experience” — Einstein
uccess is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue what counts. (Yes, that’s another quote(Churchill)) During my first hackathon my team and I did not finish our project, still we were determined to continue after the weekend was over because deep down we knew what could come of it. When I was sitting in the front of the room watching the hackathon my team and I planned, I witnessed some incredible occurrences. Shy, exploratory, computer science savvy students come together whether if they have a team or not and connect with one another. They became friends, they created products, and they changed people’s views on what is possible. It changed me. Open collaboration is now a ‘mantra’ of mine — I seek it whenever possible, I truly think that together great people with passion for what they do will change the world. So if you’re still reading this story and you've gotten all the way down to this point I would like to say: go to a collaborative event, hackathon, or start-up weekend. Experience a new experience, teach others, and learn how to learn.