Started as hackers, now we’re here.

The team behind nwPlus shares why hackathons are for everyone and how Local Hack Day became a beginner hacker’s paradise.

Nov 26, 2018 · 6 min read

Ask anyone who has been to a hackathon and they will recall the stories, people, and ridiculous moments that come out of a 24 to 48-hour marathon of drive, creativity, and exploration. 🚀

Yes, hackathons can be intimidating especially if you’re attending your first one. But it’s like anything that you try for the first time like skydiving or deep fried pickles. You hesitate at first, but I promise it’ll be worth it.

Charmaine and Kristen, dedicated to crafting a stellar UBC Local Hack Day experience each year, founded UBC Hacks by starting off with a mission.

“A mission to bring diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility to the tech space and help other students realize that they too belong in the hackathon community.”

Local Hack Day is a global event hosted by Major League Hacking and GitHub, where campuses across the global hacker community host beginner friendly hackathons that bring students together to hack over the span of 12 hours. Find UBC LHD at or one near you here, thanks to MLH ❤!

We supply the resources, the mentors, the food. You find the (new) friends, obtain the swag, push your technical boundaries. This beginner friendly hackathon revolves around social good, inclusivity, and accessibility and is only complete when you bring your individual character and expertise to the table.

Tech is for everybody, whether you’re a beginner or a battle-hardened veteran, whether your laptop has zero or a hundred stickers, whether you’re a designer or a developer, whether you prefer tabs or spaces, whoever you are!

— Kristen ✨

A hackathon veteran, Jessica Lee, voices similar sentiments to encourage others to explore the opportunities around them. “To those outside of the tech world, there is this aura of mystery surrounding hackathons, but there really shouldn’t be.”

A few members from the nwPlus team had thoughts to share about how hackathons have affected their lives — and how all you need is the mindset to start.

Let’s debunk the mysterious aura around hackathons.

Anita, nwHacks Logistics Director 💖

Anita, our nwHacks Logistics Director ✨, started immersing in hackathons with UBC Local Hack Day (LHD) back in 2016.

“It was interesting how it was an independent experience.” She recalls how driven everyone was intrinsically motivated to code and build things on a weekend without the typical expectation for marks.

The atmosphere of LHD provided a great stepping stone to nwHacks happening just one month later. “LHD and nwHacks were two different worlds — LHD had less pressure to demo something.” Following LHD, she started a course with Java which equipped her at nwHacks to feel more fitting in the structured environment. Since then, Anita has been to BizHacks and EduHacks around Vancouver and found herself reunited with her love for event planning on the nwHacks logistics team.

“Even if sh*t happens, disaster mitigation is a useful skill.” What’s great is how relevant this is in event planning, hackathons, and overall, life.

But really, “worst case scenario, you get free swag and food, so why not?” Instead of crunching through online tutorials on your own, work through them with industry mentors and fellow learners at your next hackathon.

Charmaine, UBC Local Hack Day Co-Director 💖

Charmaine, our Local Hack Day Co-Director ✨, constantly inspires us to push the boundaries of what hackathons can be and explains exactly why we do what we do.

She, the self-proclaimed “biggest Neopets fan,” has so much enthusiasm to share about why she’s studying computer science and even spoke at TEDxUBC about it.

Keep this between you and I — I actually hesitated joining nwPlus for the longest time because I loved nwHacks so much, I simply couldn’t wrap my head around staying on the sidelines on the big day as an organizer. But that same love for being a hacker has translated into my love for spending every day of the past few years crafting an unforgettable experience for all our participants, with the goal to change fellow students’ lives the way hackathons transformed mine.

Kristen, UBC Local Hack Day Co-Director 💖

Kristen, also our Local Hack Day Co-Director ✨, reflects on her first days as a hacker and the valid feelings that come with first-time hackathon experiences. Her story is familiar to all of us and personalizes the welcoming nature of the hacker community.

She channels her energy into graphic design, music, and all things awesome — including countless hackathons.

When I first considered attending hackathons, I confess that I felt intimidated — it was 2016, and I had only been coding for less than a year, and I only knew Racket and the smallest bit of Java. I missed out on many hackathons and many opportunities because I thought that everyone else would be so much better than me. When my friends finally convinced me to attend my very first hackathon, I realized how friendly and welcoming other hackers were; it was very unlike the scary atmosphere I imagined, and I learned a lot from connecting with like-minded students and helpful mentors. I realized how wrong I had been to be intimidated by hackathons — but it’s hard to not be scared! Despite how much I enjoyed it, I couldn’t help thinking: how many other students at UBC had thought the same thing as I did? As our events grew and our name became more well-known, we felt the pressure to expand the club and make each event even better for the future. Organizing hackathons isn’t easy, but crafting a great experience for beginners and hearing the impact it had on peoples’ lives with one of my best friends makes all the stressful nights worth it.

UBC Local Hack Day is special because of the motivations from the people behind it who are committed to bringing the magic of hackathons to the UBC and Vancouver student community.

Serena, Content Writer 💖

To bring my own perspective into the conversation, I have only been to one “real” hackathon where my team spent hours pivoting from one idea to the other, finding food, and waiting for Slack contests. However, nwHacks 2018 gave me a fantastic introduction to the widespread hackathon community both within UBC and across Vancouver.

It even encouraged me to join the nwPlus team this year and brought me to connect with other students that believe in Vancouver as a thriving community for tech.

At nwPlus, we support the future hackers of the Pacific Northwest to bridge connections, empower skill-building, and approach tech as a tool. Learn, build, and share your ideas at UBC Local Hack Day on December 1st, 2018. And celebrate with us at nwHacks’ 5th anniversary with an epic hackathon on January 26th-27th, 2019. — UBC Local Hack Day hosted by nwPlus.
Stay in touch: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram — Western Canada’s largest hackathon hosted by nwPlus.
Stay in touch: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

nwPlus UBC

Behind the scenes of nwHacks — Western Canada's largest hackathon, UBC Local Hack Day — NA’s Largest LHD 2018, and cmd-f — Vancouver’s first all female* hackathon at the University of British Columbia.

Thanks to Anita Tse


Written by

Hi, I study EE, do STEM outreach, and write.

nwPlus UBC

Behind the scenes of nwHacks — Western Canada's largest hackathon, UBC Local Hack Day — NA’s Largest LHD 2018, and cmd-f — Vancouver’s first all female* hackathon at the University of British Columbia.

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