Stirring the pot: Hackathon Edition

Why we should be including all majors

Whenever my boyfriend mentioned that he had a hackathon to attend, I never thought much about it.

He would persuade me to try coding. He felt it was one of the most universal and important skills of this generation. I can’t blame him, he’s right. Countless nights I would stare at the screen, trying to learn. He made me sign up for Free Code Camp, an amazing service that teaches beginners how to code. I soon learned that there was more to coding than the idea that it would be cool; you needed to have the passion for it. As a communications major, I did not. I was the one who read and wrote, not the one who coded. That was him. But I still tried.

I. Could. Not. Do. It.

No scratch that, I could do it, I just didn’t have that fire behind my eyes that he had. So I stopped. I let it go. I put it in a box and gave it to him and told him, “Hey, this is your thing, not mine.” And that was the end of it. I supported his dreams and he supported mine.

Now fast forward to last week. UC Davis was having a hackathon. My boyfriend and his team were attending. I was supposed to drop him off and go do what I had planned to do for the rest of the day. That didn’t happen.

We walked in and my S/O checked in to get his wrist band. After that, we walked over to the table we were assigned. There, I met his two teammates, much to my surprise were energetic and kind.

Then something weird happened, they asked me to join their team.

I, completely baffled, responded to them that they must be mistaken. ”I don’t code,” I told them; I was just a communications major. They responded with, “great, we still need you.” I was confused, what could I possibly do at an event that aims to code?

It turns out, quite a few things. I helped create the logo and coordinated their ideas to abstract the best version of their app. I helped with the presentation slides and motivated them when times were hard.

It was absolutely exhilarating.

They built the app and put in loads of work over me, but I still felt like I was part of a team. It started something in me that I never felt before. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to do more. And that’s when I started thinking.

What if hackathons involved more than just hacking? The team explained that hackathons encouraged other majors to join, but they never do. I thought that it might be for the same reason I didn’t want to come. It’s because they have no idea that you can do more than code.

I reflected on my experience. I felt that although there are other things that non-coders could do, it wasn’t enough.

Wouldn’t it be beneficial if communication, business, or advertising majors and more could become involved?

You come in with a team. You have hackers, who are the developers of the product. They build and make your idea a reality.

You have your public relations teammates, who come up with a campaign initiative and proposal to help launch your product into the community. They research on demographics and psychographics that you would be targeting your product at. Not only that, but they would begin a formative research design about the product and more.

You then also have your advertising/business teammates who research and come up with a plan on how to market the app. They deal with any aspect of marketing and work with the PR teammates on the best approach.

These are just some of my ideas, obviously there are many more possibilities. The point is, your team would reflect a real life simulation trying to launch a product into the market. By incorporating all aspects in a hackathon, individuals who attend would be getting a taste of real life experience in the tech industry.

Judges would evaluate every component of the team like a regular hackathon. We’ve seen sub-categories for developers like best mobile app, most technical, and best health hack. For PR and advertising, sub-categories could include best ad campaign or best pitch.

Making this a reality would need extensive planning and research. To produce a huge event like this, you have to deal with complex issues and have to be very aware of more things. I still do believe it can happen.

To have a competition like this, it would tackle a lot of issues hackathons and the tech community deal with. It would bring in diversity outside of race or gender and would boost interest in outsiders. It would allow others to experience product development without actually coding and unify majors as the industry does on a daily basis.

I am not a professional. I am not an expert. I am just an undergraduate communications major finding a way to love tech the way I do things. I would love to take part in hackathons that would test my skills. I would love to gain experience and learn in real life simulations. I would love to work with my team’s developers to plan and execute a product.

Do you think this is possible? Is there something like this already out there? Let me know. Who knows, maybe we can all team up and make this happen.