A little on hackathons

and why you should sign up for one right now.

I’m in the grey shirt about to sit down. Top left. Can you see me :P

I remember about six months ago when I attended my first hackathon. Being completely honest, I really had no idea what would go down. As soon as I entered, there were over two hundred kids running around, sharing their ideas in search for a team. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.

But, what is a “hackathon” and what are “hacks”? A hackathon is a usually a weekend event where developers work on anything ranging from innovative software and hardware solutions to real-world problems. A “hack” means anything useful that a team has created in that timeframe.

My first hackathon was a great learning experience. It brought me back into the vast world of technology. It was truly eye-opening to see the potential of software and hardware all coming together. After a full 24 hours of collaborating with three strangers who I had never met before, my team and I managed to pull something off.

We basically made a buzzer connected to an arduino that beeped based on temperature. (yes i know, advanced developers — please don’t laugh…)

We all learned so so so much more than we would have by just staring at our laptops at home.

Even though I slept for an hour or two, that hackathon was one of the only events in my life where I felt like I was actually learning. Sure, maybe our project wasn’t that impressive. But, at least we made something. And it turned out that something lead to so much more.

As soon as I got home, I ordered a Raspberry Pi and as it arrived, I first used it as a NAS, then a web server, and lastly as media streaming device. The motivation for those projects all stemmed from my first hackathon. What else? At my next hackathon, I developed an Alexa skill, and now I have a free Echo in the mail as part of a promotion that I completed.

What I’m trying to say is that hackathons are one of the greatest learning experiences you’ll ever have. With loads of sponsors giving out swag and showing off their API’s, delicious meals every couple hours, and most importantly, so many innovative people all under one giant roof — justimagine the possibilities.

Just last week at PennApps, I got to witness some of the greatest software, hardware, and VR hacks take place. Some of these included making eye exams more accessible in third world countries with a smartphone, using facial recognition to alert authorities of criminals, and even using augmented reality and sign language to communicate with people. All these hacks are just prototypes of the products we all may use in the future — and we get to experience, learn, and test them in the present.

Hackathons are like experiencing the future in the present.

I think that’s why I love attending hackathons — who wouldn’t want to get a glimpse of the future? I encourage all aspiring and learning developers, especially high-school and college students, to register for a hackathon near you today.

The world (and I) can’t wait to see you build the future.

– I originally posted this on my tech blog, siimply tech. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check it out!