Why you should go to hackathons

8/21/2016

It was a last minute thing, but my a couple of friends and I decided to go to an AT&T hosted hackathon in Dallas. For the people that don’t know what a hackathon is, it’s basically a social coding event where you go to some event location and network with VC’s, businesses and other developers, oh and also compete by creating a small hack/project in 24 hours which you will present at end for judging. I have attended about half a dozen of these events and highly recommend them, especially the small ones that are less known, because they are a great way to meet new people, network, hear new ideas and work on things you like. This particular hackathon was probably my favorite of all time, because it was small, they had amazing food and awesome people and it was hosted at The Grove, a small social work sharing space in Dallas. Another refreshing aspect was the majority of the people there were older and more seasoned developers, making my friends and I the youngsters. I say that because it turns out that the older people are far more interesting to talk to, they have experience and are open to listening to your ideas and even bouncing ideas back and forth with you in a friendly manner. It was a great experience and I was able to make some awesome new connections and meet some new people and learn really useful info. We actually met a VC from Pickup, which is a truck sharing service for moving and it so happens that my friend is building a competing platform and the guy was actually really helpful and gave my friends some good tips and advice for starting out that he would have otherwise not known. I also had a good conversation with a recruiter from Research Now who saw our presentation and by the end of it traded info with me and invited to do an internship and part time work with them while I’m in school. I said these events are useful, they can open up to good doors and lead to things even if you don’t win, so I do recommend to take a weekend to go to one. During our time there we went through a few ideas like an IoT system to notify a user when physical mail is waiting in the box, or another one was to notify a user when they left the house with a light on to promote energy saving, but we finally settled with an app that would allow users to set a location, so when another intended user arrives at that destination they are notified. We thought a good use case would be when you have a friend driving home late after a get together and want to know if they made it home safe or if you have a child walking to school and want to be sure they made it. My goal was to have privacy, but safety and reassurance. Another cool idea that really stood out to me, that also took home 2nd prize, was called “Bitcoin Lock”, basically the idea was to have locks that used a bitcoin as the key, so you could have secure and easy transfer of ownership or goods. Even though our team didn’t take home any prizes I think the experience, networking and information gained was well worth it and they fed us some really good food, I was impressed.