hackHarvard 2018 — My Experience & Important Tips

Ansh Mehra
Sep 21, 2019 · 5 min read

It is officially that time of the year when one of the world’s most prestigious colleges, Harvard University organises its famous hackHarvard. I’m gonna be sharing some of my best experiences from the Hack along with some tips that can really help you prepare yourself for an amazing competition.

The Hack took place from 19th-21st of October, 2018. If you are an international student, I’d recommend you to land on Boston at least 2 days before so that you settle properly. The Hack allows you to stay one night at the Hack’s venue but you need your own place to stay for the other days of your trip.

Once you attend the Opening Ceremony, all big sponsors set up their stalls and distribute a bucket load of free swag. This includes stickers, T Shirts, Badges, Mugs, Shades, Flyers, Sketchpens, Pop Sockets and so much more from Facebook, Google, MLH, Microsoft, SmartCar, Amazon, Alibaba and so many more.

All of us didn’t have enough space in our luggage to fit all the free swag we got.

The hackHarvard team takes really good care of their participants. They have unlimited food, snacks, candy, juices and free WiFi for everyone at the venue. It genuinely feels like you’ve got access to a Geek’s Heaven.

The Harvard campus is a whole new world in itself. There is a lot of inspiration everywhere you go. There are some amazing stores, food joints and educational buildings around the Harvard’s campus.

The best thing about hackHarvard was that they had a long list of prizes to give away for all kinds of innovation. You can check out their prizes and the projects that were made at hackHarvard on their Devpost website.

Now the Important Tips. There are three things you must take care of -

Work on a project that you can implement

Do not get overexcited and add in all kinds of flashy technology so that you can impress other people. Pick a challenge that allows you to use your team’s strengths and work on a solution that can be completed in the given time span.

Make sure you have a Pitch/Presentation ready

At the end of the Hackathon, we had an open expo of all the projects. Everyone had set up their laptops with their project demo and we were asked to pitch our ideas to all the people who came and saw our project.

You can really take this to the next level because how you present your idea plays a major role in your overall success.

Do not be shy about asking for guidance

It is natural to feel embarrassed about taking help but the reality is that every single person at the Hack would be delighted to help you out.

You will be in a group of immensely talented individuals. Do not be afraid of asking for guidance, all of the organisers and mentors are super willing to solve your technical doubts.

There would be a lot of people who would be travelling outside their hometown for the first time. I know it feels very intimidating but the experience is much more fulfilling and inspiring than you think.

However, there are a few common mistakes I’d like to point out that can be avoided.

Do not get so busy that you forget to meet new people

It is easy to get so deeply involved in your work and the pursuit to win that you forget about the opportunity you have of meeting new people. You will be in a room filled with some of the most talented minds on our planet. Make sure you meet like minded people and learn about their ways of thinking. You might not meet all these brilliant minds together at one place.

You cannot predict your success

I understand that everybody who works hard, expects to win. The reality is that we can only control how hard we work but we cannot control if we will win or not. There are multiple factors that influence our success, therefore do not get too obsessed with winning. Do not get sad if you lose and do not get too arrogant if you win.

Multiple new doors can open for you

Your mind expands when you travel. You meet new people and learn new possibilities. Therefore, always keep your eyes open. Learn and read about the stuff you see at the Sponsor Stalls and check if anything gets your attention. Apart from the competition, I was able to meet a representative from Microsoft who gave us some amazing tips for the project we made at HackHarvard.

She told us about the Microsoft Imagine Cup and that motivated us to work more upon our idea. The result? My team and I were selected as the Asia Regional Finalists at the Microsoft Imagine Cup held in Sydney, Australia this year in Feb! You can read about it on my website.

Therefore, you never know where the Universe is leading you. Keep working hard and enjoy the process. You are very lucky to get this opportunity therefore make the most of it. I wish you the very best.

Apart from Design and Filmmaking, I have my own Podcast called Take it Easy on Spotify. You can check out my design work and films on my website, www.anshmehra.com or follow me on Instagram

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