- Find your team ahead of time – If you and your team mates have some extra time to get to know each other and brainstorm together, that will save you a lot of time the day of the event.
- Brainstorm strategically – Mind maps are an excellent way to corral your ideas into potential projects, and if you keep your focus on one or two main problems you’d like to solve, you’re more likely to come up with a workable solution.
- Don’t get too grandiose – You have to have at least some part of the hack working when it comes time for presentation, so you don’t want to dream too big. This is one instance when a time restriction will help you if you let it. Stay focused on what you can actually achieve in the time you have.
- Make a plan – spend some front-loaded time making a plan. Sketching out what your goals are and how you think you’ll achieve them will give you guideposts along the way as your project develops.
- Be adaptable -But even if you have a plan, you can’t stay married to it. Be willing to pivot if the idea needs working over or if the tech capabilities aren’t what you expected as you go through trial and error.
- Be clear on who’s doing what – It’s helpful to for each person to be clear on what their task list is, but be willing to help each other out. You should all be working towards the same goal. Teamwork is the name of the game here.
- Communicate – If you need help, ask. If something isn’t clear, ask. Have an idea for a solution? Speak up. Have a concern about the solution being discussed? Share with the group. The team who communicates clearly will have a leg up on others who don’t.
- Don’t skimp on presenting – The best idea in the world won’t get any attention if no one understands what it is, what it does or who should care. Take some time to plan what you’ll say and how the demo will proceed. Even better, have a teammate who focuses on sharing & fine tuning the message & presentation.
- Have a workable demo – Only working demos are eligible for prizes, so if that’s a priority to you, make sure you have something that shows at least part of what your project is intended to do.
- Don’t forget to have fun! – Amid all the stress or pressure you might feel, don’t forget to have a great time. Yes, it would be awesome if something world-changing (and/or bank account changing) comes out of it, but you can’t get too wrapped up in the outcome. See the hackathon as an opportunity to collaborate, practice your skills and to connect with others who want to use technology to change the world!
I’ve assembled this resource list to help you have the best experience possible. I’ll continue to update it with new links often, so check back!
For learning before the hackathon
- Girl Develop It
- Code Academy
- Excercism.io – download and solve problems in nearly 30 programming languages
- Tools for Open Source
Articles about hackathons
- WTF is a hackathon?
- Hackathons are for beginners
- A Brief History of Hackathons
- 14 Tips on How to Crush a Hackathon
- How you can prepare for a hackathon
- The 8 Kinds of Projects You Meet at a Hackathon
- Hackathon-ing as a Non-Developer
- How to Present a Successful Demo
- Your First Hackathon
- Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Hack
- What Do Women Want at Hackathons? NASA Has a List.
- Selling Out and the Death of Hacker Culture
- How to Win any Hackathon – and Why They’re Important
Other Articles of Interest
- You Can Already Code – You Just Don’t Know It Yet
- The problem with a technology revolution designed primarily for men
- Patriarchy Hurts Everybody.
- What Do Women Want At Hackathons? NASA Has a List.
Brainstorming & PlanningEven though a lot of these use the word “startup” the tools are also useful for planning out a project for a hackathon. Not every hackathon project has to be a good business idea, but the brainstorming tools can be helpful.
- The One Tool Startups Need to Brainstorm, Test and Win
- A Simple Template to Build Your Startups Brand Foundation
- How Mind Mapping Can Help You Organize Your Thoughts
Design & Description
- How to Craft an Irresistible Product Description – useful for figuring out how to describe what your project does quickly which is also useful in presentation
- Canva Design School – tutorials for designs for non-designers
- CodePen – Front End Web Design; get feedback, test for bugs, find example designs