Hackathons are a competition for designers and developers typically lasting from a day to a week. Although most hackathons are used as a hiring platform, many such contests are intended as educational or social tools. If you are a college student looking to improve your skills, you could do no better than sharpen your teeth on the crucible of innovation that is the hackathon. In other words, hackathons are not just for the experienced!
Here is a not so comprehensive list of the reasons why you, as a college student, should attend such a hackfest:
- Working collaboratively: In many of these hackathons, participating in teams is encouraged and sometimes even mandatory since the problems are of sufficient complexity that a feasible solution can only be achieved if a group of people with a variety of skill sets work together to solve them. For many of you, this may be the first time that you work on a collaborative project, and as such, this would be a great learning experience. Not only are your technical skills tested, your “people” and organizational skills are as well.
- Financially lucrative: Many hackathons offer lucrative financial carrots for the best teams. In our Stayzilla hackathon, which was primarily for experienced developers, there was a special prize on offer for the best student team. This was to encourage student participation and to motivate the next generation of developers.
- A change of routine: As a typical college student, your schedule would be something like this: go to class, do homework, study for tests, and if there is time, some social activity with friends on the weekends. Participating in one of these hackathons is a welcome break from your daily grind.
- Working on interesting problems: Although extrinsic motivational factors such as hacking for prize money, or for hiring opportunities are powerful, there is nothing more so than an intrinsic one. As human beings, we love to solve problems, and as such, participating in a hackathon to work on interesting puzzles tickles one’s fancy. You do not need to be an experienced “hacker” to gain pleasure from attempting these problems.
- Test yourself: You might be the most talented coder in the world but hitherto your skills have been tested (0r wasted!) on somewhat contrived problems. In hackathons, you get to work on real world problems and come up with real world solutions that would require you to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You get to find out your limitations and push past them.
- A great learning experience: This may be redundant to say but as you can imagine, hackathons are a great learning experience. For experienced developers or students alike, there is always something to learn and to take away from “hackathon participation.” Not only will your technical skills improve, your ability to work with other people will be honed, which is essential for your professional development. Also, you get exposed to many different ways of solving problems-an obvious advantage for the future.
So, there you have it: participation in these hackathons are not just for the experienced developers; students can benefit tremendously as well. It is well worth your time and effort, and helps you stay ahead of the curve.
We organize many hackathons for experienced developers and students alike, and on the weekend of Feb 14th and 15th 2015, we held an intercollegiate hackathon in SJCE, Mysore for Technologics where we had a great turnout. Keep checking our webpage for news about our upcoming hackathons, challenges and codesprints! We also have a facebook group, #vhackers, focused on this burgeoning community of “hackers” and developers where you can get even more information.