Lessons from my first Hackathon

Last weekend (Feb 13–14) I was fortunate enough to attend HackBU at Binghamton University, really interesting time and they had an even cooler logo. This was my first hackathon — I’ve been meaning to attend one for quite awhile and decided to finally pull the trigger. As with any first time experience, I have learned some lessons that I think would be valuable for anyone who’s looking to go to one. Of course these are still indefinite as I only went to one but I plan to validate these in the future. Hope you enjoy.

Lessons

  • Decide on an idea and do it quickly. My team and I spent a good amount of time figuring out what we wanted to do. Hackathons are the place to test out your craziest ideas cause between mentorship and the focused setting, anything is possible there. Moving fast is very important and not solidifying an idea only wastes precious work time.
  • Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Going into HackBU I actually had close to zero web-development experience. I knew of HTML, CSS, Javascript and all that fun stuff but I actually never built anything with them. We didn’t let our lack of experience be a deterrent in what we wanted to build. We learned what we had to and applied it.
  • Get help. We were doing something that none of us have never done before (I think, at least it was my first time). Of course we needed to get help. Don’t be afraid to ask, most people are very willing. P.S. Shoutout to David for saving our asses and teaching us a boatload of web dev.
  • Fail. My teammate Birch said something at the beginning that stuck with me the entire time — “We’re not getting graded on this”. He was right. Didn’t matter if we failed at doing something or handed in the shittiest thing in existence, no one cared. In fact, we didn’t even hand in a finished project. Failure is just another plot on the graph of trying. It’s interesting to see what you can do when there are no grades involved.
  • Take Care. Not the Drake album, although that is great too. Hackathons are marathons and not sprints, taking care of yourself is super duper important. Going into this I thought everyone was…actually just look for yourself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv-k9pP4A00 I was actually very wrong. Drinking water, getting sleep, etc. were of the essence. Without those the greatest talent can turn into nothing.
  • Have fun. This is the most important one. No matter if you shipped a piece of shit or you didn’t even get to opening up the text editor, the reason we/you go is because we/you love to build things. I had a blast and I met so many bright people it was truly amazing. I am counting down the days until I get to go to another one which is pretty soon.

Remarks for the Road

I’m gonna keep this short; do things you like and continue doing those things until you get sick of them. Congrats to all the winners of HackBU and all the noobs who had their debuts that weekend (including me). Thanks to all the organizers, sponsors, MLH, and all the kickass mentors.