How To Win A Hackathon

3D rendering of the trophy we won

What is a Hackathon?

The concept of a hackathon is to create (hack) something in a short amount of time. Most of these hackathons include programming in some sort or form. There are many different flavors of hackathons and this is very important to keep in mind if you want to rank high.

The Theme of the Hackathon

The Hackathon (Odyssey) we attended was all about creating solutions for a social/environmental problem in the world. Something they did really well is inviting stakeholders who are very knowledgeable about the problems. This resulted in an inspirational environment to generate ideas that are actually realistic instead of just something fun.

Photo: Grabing plastic on a beach. Source: from the odyssey website

Our team

Right of the bat we had a good start because we had a great composition of people with different complementary traits in our team. A mixture of people who are great at presenting, programming frontend, programming backend and managing servers. Our team consisted of myself from School of Data Science and people from Circularise.

Our strategy

The goal of the hackathon was to create a solution for a problem. I repeat: The goal of the hackathon was to create a solution for a problem. Not the most functions in a prototype, not the best code and not even the best presentation. It’s all about the best idea and everything we do besides forming our idea is to help present that idea to the judges.

Phase 1: Deriving to our idea

Image by xresch at Pixabay
  1. thinking of an idea
  2. talking about our idea to stakeholders
  3. radically changing the idea
  4. talking about our idea to stakeholders
  5. altering the idea
  6. talking about the idea to stakeholders
  7. finetuning the idea
  8. talking about the idea to stakeholders
  9. finetuning the idea
  • Getting to know the questions of the stakeholders/judges.
  • The stakeholders/judges already know you and your idea before the presentation.
  • Less mentally draining than coding something that will be tossed out of the window.

Phase 2: Creating the prototype

Image from Austrian National Library

Phase 3: Finalizing

The last 10% of our time was spent on integrading our codes together and incorporating it into one story for the presentation. We started this process a couple of hours before the end of the hackathon so it didn’t feel rushed.

The presentation

The presentation went great. It really showed that we talked a lot with the stakeholders because we knew about the questions the jury might have. The answers to these questions were incorporated into the presentation or, at least, we had an answer ready.

Our result

Image of our product wasteparty

Take aways

The last thing you want after an intense hackathon is to have your idea being smacked down with a few small questions by the judges. So spend most of your time obtaining a knowledge of the stakeholders. Everything else you do should be focussed on enhancing the presentation of your idea.

More of me

My website

I do machine learning and robotics and stuff.

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