If you love building and learning, hackathons are the place to be!

What is a Hackathon?

And why should I go to one?

Aug 21, 2015 · 4 min read

There’s a common misconception regarding the word “Hackathon”. Why would I want to get involved in an event centred around theft, malicious code and destroying systems? Fortunately, this couldn’t be more wrong! As a matter of fact, hackathons are the complete opposite; they are amazing events that encourage creativity, collaboration and the creation of awesome programs/projects.

Stemming from the original meaning of the word ‘hack’, to build/modify/create, hackathons are events designed to push individuals to learn something new, step outside of their comfort zone and meet like-minded people. Hackathons are community meetups for coders and those wishing to learn to code. They often have a competitive element to them and are typically spread across a weekend.

Student organisers from universities all around the world help host MLH Hackathons. MLH, Major League Hacking, is the organisation that helps to power and connect all these events. Warwick, for example, is home to WarwickHACK; Warwick’s official league event first hosted in November 2014.

Hackathons are awesome events where coders come together to learn, share and build.

People build all sort of projects, ranging from hardware hacks to web applications. There are always really cool things to build/tinker with so you’re only limited by your imagination! If you want to build a VR (Virtual Reality) project using an Oculus rift or maybe a smartwatch application on a Pebble, more than often hackathons provide this tech for you to tinker with. At an MLH partnered event you might come across their hardware lab; a huge collection of the latest tech available to use at your leisure! In addition to this, event sponsors will often put forward prizes for using their products or tools. At the last WarwickHACK, Bloomberg gave away mini-drones as a prize for using their finance API!

Definitely! Almost all hackathons have cool prizes up for grabs, from mini-drones and tablets to software subscriptions and internships. Most hackathons even have fun mini-events like ‘!nolight’ (attempting to mimic a website from scratch without looking) to ‘Slideshow Karaoke’ (impromptu presentation giving on topics you have no idea about). Though, it’s not all about writing code; we love a table tennis competition to break up a hard day of programming!

Hackers eagerly trying out an Oculus Rift!

Not a problem! Many people that come to hackathons, arrive with little or no experience coding, wishing to find their feet and get started. A hackathon is one of the best places to learn how to code as you’re surrounded by experienced coders, industry mentors and friendly organisers. Join a team with some accomplished hackers; everyone had to start somewhere and hackers are always happy to help out!

Some events, such as WarwickHACK, have dedicated workshops and breakout sessions to get you started with skills like Web Development (HTML/CSS/JavaScript), programming microcontrollers and scripting in languages such as Python; all the basics you need to start hacking!

First time coders learning how to build their own website using HTML and CSS.

Nope! All the hackathons in the MLH League are free for students and many will provide financial assistance to help you cover any of the travel costs associated with getting to them. If the event is spread over 24 hours across the weekend, you’ll also be provided with food and drink. It’s a brilliant way to spend your weekend learning something useful, meeting new people and picking up a bunch of stickers, t-shirts and prizes!

We are yet to confirm the date for the next WarwickHACK. However, we will be running a mini-hackathon alongside universities all across the globe on the 10th of October in the Department of Computer Science as part of MLH’s Local Hack Day. Similar to WarwickHACK, the Local Hack Day is a jampacked day full of workshops, guest speakers and mini-challenges.

Slideshow Karaoke- One of our favourite hackathon games!

We haven’t launched tickets for WarwickHACK yet but registration is now open for our Local Hack Day and you can find more about it on our website, www.warwick.tech. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to any members of our team or tweet us!

The team celebrating a well deserved meal, post-hackathon.

WarwickTECH, an entrepreneurial tech group started by Warwick undergraduates, was founded in September 2014 with the ambition of kickstarting entrepreneurial education within the STEM community. We’ve since held two WarwickHACK events and run a biweekly meetup, Campus Startup for entrepreneurs, engineering and hackers. With the new academic year incoming, we’re rapidly expanding and will be hosting a range of tech/business events across the terms. If you want to find out more about what we do and how you can get involved, head to www.warwick.tech or follow us on twitter @WarwickTECH!

Alex Bucknall

President of WarwickTECH

Student-led angel fund backing founders from Warwick University.


Student-led angel fund backing founders from Warwick University. We aim to empower students to pursue tech entrepreneurship and innovation.


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A Community for Makers, Creators and Innovators


Student-led angel fund backing founders from Warwick University. We aim to empower students to pursue tech entrepreneurship and innovation.