Bring on the Benefits
Everyone Is Motivated
One of the best parts of collaborating with others is the shared sense of excitement. Outside of the classroom environment, people’s motives to work together (or not) can vary widely. More often Hackathon participants are there because they genuinely want to be there. Whether it is for the extra experience, the specific cause the Hackathon is geared towards, etc., there is a common theme of passion. This typically removes one of the most frustrating part of group work where a team mate is too disinterested or busy to do their part.
Less Guidelines = More Oppurtunity
Many Hackathons are fairly open ended in terms of what technology can be used to create a project within the given theme. The release from the constraints of class projects is liberating. Forget about the anxiety of scrutinizing a rubric to make sure every mark is hit in order to maximize points. Without the guidelines, there is more incentive to branch out and take on new languages/tech stacks because there is far less pressure to have it come together perfectly. Worst case scenario, perhaps the final submission is lackluster, but potentially a lot was learned in the process for the next project. There is no penalty, just opportunities to gain experience!
Mentor or Mentee
The chance to become a mentor or mentee to another team mate is invaluable. Participants can have a variable level of skills coming into a Hackathon; Even if you normally find need extra guidance on a project, this could be the time to work with someone who is not as knowledgeable that you can offer guidance. Likewise, if you usually are mentoring others, this could be a great chance to learn from someone else or see how someone with a similar skill level operates differently.
Tackling Common Excuses
Excuses justify to yourself why you are holding yourself back from something you want to accomplish. Here are a few of mine to why I did not enter a Hackathon earlier.
I work full time and I am taking classes so I cannot possibly do a Hackathon. Why risk grades dropping or loss of income. This is easy to accept, but for a worthwhile experience reorganizing a busy schedule for just one weekend or day can pay off. “Not even time” excuse only works for so long before the a busy schedule can look more malleable (at least temporarily) with enough drive.
For all introverts, joining a group of strangers to code together can seem like a daunting task. It could be very awkward especially if you are not upfront about what you do and do not know. The easiest way to get through this barrier is just to work more people and gain confidence over time. A little small talk can go a long way to increasing comfort. That results in it becoming easier to communicate with partners without feeling like bothering people.
I did my first OSU BeaverHacks Hackathon recently in the Fall of 2021 and it was highly rewarding. Getting more hands on with Version Control, new APIs, and working with a diverse crew of people helped me grow as a developer. If you haven’t done a Hackathon and are interested, I strongly encourage it!