Behind the Scenes: Hacker Admissions

How we selected 500 hackers for Hack Western 3

The Canadian hacker community is growing

1700 people applied to attend Hack Western 3. We were blown away by the interest and enthusiasm of so many hackers from across Canada and beyond. I truly wish we could run a hackathon for all of you.

To provide an excellent hacker experience, we limit Hack Western to 500 participants. You didn’t make it easy to select only 500 hackers. We are confident that each and every participant offered admission to Hack Western 3 will contribute positively to the hackathon. You’re a set of passionate, talented builders and dreamers that we can’t wait to meet. There are also a lot of awesome hackers we weren’t able to take this year. No matter what, never stop learning and hacking! With so many hackathons available, you have no excuse.

Above all, we’re looking for passion

Our application is designed to help you share two things: your passion and your technical ability.

You demonstrated passion by sharing your infectious fascination with technology, by showing us your determination and perseverance to challenge yourself and learn new skills, and by demonstrating your initiative to create interesting projects. We are looking for the hackers who really want to be at Hack Western 3, who will contribute their unique skills to their teams and fellow participants, and who we can expect to take full advantage of the opportunity.

Technical ability means different things depending on the applicant. Among experienced hackers, we are looking for a developed set of diverse skills, evidence of past projects, success at previous hackathons, and — most importantly — a willingness to share these skills with other hackers. For first-time hackers, we love to see you taking initiative to build your skills independently, by trying an online class or building a small personal project.

Technical ability can be demonstrated many ways. We look for applications with an ability to code software, but also those who tinker with hardware, who design beautiful things, or who deeply understand users and build products to solve tough problems. Or — someone who doesn’t do any of this yet, but is ready to start. You don’t need to know how to code to go to your first hackathon. But you do need to be prepared and eager to learn.

Our judging process

Several organizers worked together review your applications. Each application was reviewed by at least 2 people. We normalized scores across each judge, and weighted passion scores more heavily than technical ability. We also awarded bonus points for noteworthy applicants — for example, those who have made exceptional contributions to building the hacker community at their school, or can contribute significantly to the learning of other hackers. Whether you’re a veteran hacker or new and eager to learn, trust us — you deserve to be here.

Our wishes

We want to build a hacker community at every school in Ontario. We accept a certain number of applicants per school to ensure representation from across the province, and to help you meet new hackers and build up participation at as many schools as possible.

We want to give an opportunity to first-time hackers. 50% of our applicants had never attended a hackathon before. And so we accepted 50% first-time hackers. We hope Hack Western 3 is the first of many for you.

We want students of all ages and backgrounds to be welcome. We see a lot of Computer Science and Engineering majors, and add in hackers with other unique backgrounds to help you make projects you might never have imagined. We also accepted 72 high school students to Hack Western 3. Their applications blew us away.

We want under-represented groups to attend more hackathons. In particular, more females need to go to hackathons. Half of our organizing team is female, and this is something we feel very strongly about. Less than 20% of our applications were female hackers. To be honest, we hoped for more. We’re working behind the scenes to think of new ways to engage female participants, because this number should only go up. (If you have any tips, tell us how. We’re listening.) Much love to Western University’s Women in Technology Society for their efforts on this. We accepted 20% female hackers.

Thank you for applying!

Thank you for the outstanding response when we invited you to apply for Hack Western 3. Thank you for blowing us away with your stories of past projects, for sharing your desire to learn new things, and for making us laugh and smile with your story of “you”. Thank you for continuing to help grow the Canadian hacker community by introducing your friends to hackathons and bringing them to Hack Western. We know we’re gathering a talented and ambitious group of people together this weekend. Let’s see what you do with 36 hours!