Hackathons 101: for designers.

How to survive your first hackathon.

Most people think hackathons are a bunch of nerds hunched over their laptops and getting high on energy drinks... which is 99% accurate.

At product agency ITR8, we prefer to get our hands dirty when learning the latest digital trends. To better understand the world of IoT, our Product Designer Ruben der Kinderen went to BOSCH Connected Experience (BCX) — the biggest IoT hackathon in Europe. Together with electrical engineer and information systems researcher Aida Boukhris, he built a smart inventory system for offices.

Here are his top learnings from the experience:

Clear your schedule.

At least two full days to work uninterrupted on your project. Expect long days and late nights.

Come prepared.

Bring some ideas you’d like to work on. And bring your own tools if possible. You won’t want to waste time waiting for a soldering iron, for example.

Hardware and software for setting up the microcontroller.

Combine your skill sets.

Work with people who have different skills and experiences to you — IoT is always a group effort. You’ll need people who can code, build hardware and wire the electrics.

Ask the experts.

Most tech hackathons will focus on technologies that are very new to the market. When the host company provides expert engineers to help explain the latest tools… use them!

Fake it ’til you make it.

A hackathon is almost never enough time to finish a product completely. If your hardware isn’t working perfectly by presentation time, use additional tools and existing software to at least demonstrate your idea.

A prototype of the smart inventory system.

Kill your darlings.

Even if you’ve spent time and energy working on an idea you really love, if you realise it won’t succeed — bite the bullet and let it go.

Make friends.

Who knows… these fellow hackers could be your next startup co-founders!

Aida Boukhris, with the smart inventory system.

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