Hackathons: Major Success.
First off, let me introduce myself. My name is Malak Abdeldayem and I am a freshman at a STEM high school in Baltimore, Maryland.
I would like to start by wishing everyone safety and security in these uncertain times. I know that TechTogether gets hackers from all over the world, and many countries are still deeply agonized by this pandemic.
My experience with hackathons.
Hackathons seemingly dropped from the sky out of nowhere. I first learned about hackathons from one of my teachers. In return for attending a hackathon, she gave us job shadow credit. At first, I was thinking “What on earth is a hackathon??”.
In the end, I decided to go through encouragement from my teacher. It was comforting to know she was mentoring at the hackathon as well.
At the hackathon, I had so much fun going to the workshops and panels. It was a memorable experience. Then I kind of slept on hackathons till I found myself getting a ticket for PreHacks New York, TechTogether new high school program for conquering your fear of hackathons and learning new coding skills. At PreHacks New York, I gained a better understanding of hackathons and gained confidence in my computer science skills. In fact, I was even more prepared for my second hackathon than my first one. This encouraged me to sign up for Tech Together New York.
What advice do you have for those thinking about attending TechTogether New York?
Give it your all. Hackathons are a wonderful (also very much free) enriching opportunity to be a better scientist, engineer, programmer, and more. The short 45-minute workshops hackathons offer could benefit you for the rest of your life.
If it’s not in you to find your teammates by reaching out, attend a team formation event! You have nothing to lose if you go, but much to gain. If you end up being in a team and making an awesome project (even if you don’t place), you will undoubtedly have made the most out of the event. Also, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE reach out to the organizers, mentors, and sponsors, connections are very beneficial to your career.
What did you learn during the program that you didn’t expect? What misconceptions did you have about hackathons that proved to be untrue?
That is a tough one, I have to say it would have to be the Ethics and Governance in Artificial Intelligence Presented by MASSMUTUAL. When I first saw that workshop, I was really surprised by the content. I would have never expected to discuss AI like that. I was glad that I attended that workshop.
Some misconceptions that I had about hackathons was about who was welcome and attended these events. What were their skill sets? What kind of education does everyone have? Will I be able to fit into everyone’s standards? Honestly, I was just plain overthinking it. Anyone can attend a hackathon and have a great time.
Did you feel like TechTogether New York was a safe space?
Yes. I can’t stress enough how safe and supervised the Discord servers were by the awesome event organizers. They always checked in on everyone and had fun interactive polls to see how everyone was doing.. Not to mention how nice and supportive all the hackers were to one another. I felt comfortable reaching out and participating in the various Discord channels!!
Did you build a project? What was that like?
Ahhh. Yes I did, my first actually! I had awesome teammates who supported me every step of the way. We split the work fairly. I had never used any of the platforms we used, so I had to try to learn as much as I can in very limited hours. Luckily, my team was very understanding of my skill sets.
For our project, I helped with writing, designing, picking color palettes, and more. For our project, we ended up making a website named Pinkie Pals. It connected senior adults to teenagers to chat and share skill sets online! Sadly we didn’t place, but we had a lot of fun making a project!
Did you form a team? How did you form a team? What was it like working with a team virtually for the weekend? Was team formation as scary as you thought it would be?
I used PreHacks New York to my advantage and formed a team then. I reached out to some people, some were already teamed up and ready to go, but I met two awesome and hard workers through some branching out and teamed up with them!
Lucky for me, my teammates were very responsive. A little tip though, always make sure your teammates respond when necessary because time will fly by. When I reached out, I had kept my mind open, knowing that I might be not suitable for some, but most definitely suitable for others. If you get rejected, it’s fine! There are many more team spots!!
Who did you meet at TechTogether New York? What was it like meeting people?
I met some TechTogether New York organizers, the Executive Director of TechTogether (shout out to Fiona for dealing with me for 48+ hours), and my wonderful teammates, Savannah and Pauline! I also attended some of the activities and got to play among us with many cool hackers! It was really fun connecting with everyone. Everyone was so kind and such sweethearts!
What did you do during the program? Did you attend workshops? Which workshop was your favorite?
What were your takeaways from the weekend? Do you plan on attending hackathons in the future, if so which ones?
My major takeaways were how to make mockups and how to set up myself to make successful projects. I enjoyed TTNY very much and will hope to come back every year! I am definitely attending TechTogether hackathons in the future!!! Seattle, Boston, Hobbyhacks, New York, whatever I find!