Season 17: A reflection

As the 2016–2017 hackathon season draws to a close, I thought I’d reflect on what my second year of attending hackathons has taught me. During this season, I attended four hackathons and one local hack day event, travelling over 2600 kilometers to get to them. I worked in four different languages and six different frameworks and SDKs. In this article, I’m going to discuss some goals I set for myself during these four hackathons and how well I think I did in achieving them.

One of my most important goals was improving my productivity at hackathons. Last year, I noticed that my productivity at hackathons was somewhere in the range of 15–20 minutes of productive work every hour. This led to me not getting as much done on my hacks as I would have hoped. This year I improved on that number, going from about 30 minutes/hour at MHacks 8 in October to about 45–50 minutes/hour at MHacks9 in March. Next year, I hope to be able to work for a few hours before taking a break, with an average 50–55 minutes working every hour.

My second most important goal was to learn new languages and platforms, and to build more technically challenging hacks. This year, I’ve done something different and new at each hackathon. I’ve worked with node.js, Unity3D, Google Cardboard, Chrome extensions, and Flask. While most of these were platforms building on languages I already knew, I had to learn C# for my Unity3D hack at ECHacks in November. This also happened to be my most challenging hack of the year, a garbage sorting app for Google Cardboard. I’m really impressed with how quickly my teams and I were able to pick up these new technologies, so I would say that I have met this goal. My goal for next year is to work with more difficult concepts such as machine learning and to possibly also do some hardware hacks.

Another one of my goals was to introduce more people from my school to participate in hackathons. As a high school student, I was pleasantly surprised at how many students from my high school were willing to go try hackathons. At three of the four hackathons I attended, at least one member of my team had never been to a hackathon. My most successful hackathon for this goal was MasseyHacks III in April, when I encouraged three new students to attend. In total, five grade ten and at least four grade twelve students from Richmond Hill High School tried hackathons for the first time this year. Next year, my friends and I are planning to start a non-profit to encourage high school students to go to hackathons. I am also in the early stages of negotiating with our school board to allow RHHS to host a hackathon.

Overall, Season 17 was a really good one for me and the teams I’ve worked with. I’ve managed to meet all the goals I set for myself, learned new things, and met cool people. Special thanks goes out to Nicholas Carr for working with me at every hackathon and giving me rides to some of them. This year has been great and I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next.

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