Hackathon, a source of rubber ducks and adrenaline

Do you associate being locked in a building for 48h with jail? Throw in free coffee, pizza and internet access, and people will lock themselves up voluntarily!


Hackathon - what is this strange word?

Let me explain: a hackathon involves designing or creating an application on a topic set by the organizer. Participants work alone or in groups of up to 5-6 people. The imposed time limit usually ranges from 8h to 72h.

That’s it! The whole concept is based on creating something from scratch in a limited time. The name comes from a combination of the words “marathon” and “hack”, referring to hacker culture. Despite the reference to a marathon, the event itself is more like a sprint :)

PhD: Poznań hack Day
PhD: Poznań hack Day

Sounds interesting, but isn’t this clickbait - rubber ducks? Adrenaline?

There is a lot of adrenaline flowing through hackathons! You start the event with a blank sheet, and finish with a working prototype or a finished presentation of your idea. Every minute counts, which makes the work exciting until the very end. It is very easy to get into flow!

Hackathon is also beneficial from the perspective of the organizers. Event sponsors provide speakers and panels where you can talk to the company representatives. The goal of employers is to find and entice capable programmers into hiring. Mostly this results in a lot of free swag - T-shirts, mugs, title rubber ducks, or coffee - which especially motivates students :)

I get it, but why exactly rubber ducks?

Have you ever heard of the rubber duck debugging? It involves describing a problem out loud to a rubber duck once you encounter a bug. An extremely effective method - and rather comical!

Don’t know how to code? That’s okay!

Teams aren’t made only out of programmers. Equally as important is to create a great presentation, come up with a brilliant idea, make a graphic design, or manage the project. Some hackathons can be won without writing a single line of code - for example, in the “best idea” category! In particular, you can show off your creativity at the so-called “game jams” - hackathons aimed at creating a game.

However, creating an application is irreplaceable and will open the path for you to win in the best prototype or best technology categories. It’s also a great opportunity to present yourself in front of potential employers, who often contact hackathon winners!

Participation in a hackathon can also be a motivation for growth. I’ll use the example of my friend Hubert, who studies Automation and Robotics and does 3D modeling for a living. Before competing in this year’s HackYeah, he set himself the goal of mastering the basics of webdev. By the time of the event, he had learned basic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and was familiar with React and git.

AKAI Code 2022 on Poznań University of Technology
AKAI Code 2022 on Poznań University of Technology

Why should I participate in a hackathon?

Well, why? Everyone has their own motives:

To create something cool.

Creating a project from scratch is very rewarding! At a hackathon you can quickly create a prototype and verify whether your idea is suitable for a wider audience. As an interesting fact, I’ll mention that many well-known companies started from hackathons - including Twitter, Tinder and Zapier.

To win.

Prizes at the biggest hackathons can solidly reward a day or two of work. As an example, during HackYeah 2022 the best team could win as much as 30K in prizes per category! And that’s only for a good idea and one day of work :) Winning in itself is also a great achievement, especially when facing fierce competition.

To connect with other people.

Hackathons provide a great opportunity for networking. Talking with the other teams is always a source of interesting anecdotes straight from the front lines. Company representatives are just waiting for you to talk to them! You can also start a team with a person you do not know and make an acquaintance for years to come.

To have fun.

If you like creating things then you will love a hackathon, regardless of the outcome of your team. For some, a hackathon is all about having fun, whereas the prizes are just an added bonus.

What is the most important reason for you to participate in a hackathon? The best way is to find out for yourself and sign up for the event. I have participated in three hackathons so far. I recall all of them positively, moreover - each one taught me something! Here will appear a reference to an article about my hackathon stories…. as soon as I write the next article to the end :D

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I write mostly about my projects, sports, and programming - see all posts.