Hackathons: Everything You Need to Know

A hackathon is a commonly thrown-around term, but very few people outside of tech actually know what it means. While you may be fascinated by the term or like to roll it over your tongue severally, understanding what it implies is quite better! 

Cast your mind back to your high school days when you were probably that student who would be found gulping cup after cup of dark coffee as you stayed up all night to prepare for a test. Super-impose that memory with a picture of a room filled with coders, programmers and other creatives who are engaging in this behavior day-in, day-out over a particular period of time, to come up with innovative, original models and prototypes around a particular subject or project.  This whole concept is referred to as a Hackathon, and it is routinely utilized by tech organizations and is now evolving beyond tech and infiltrating other sectors. 

The origin of the term hackathon is the word “marathon” which refers to a really long, hard task, with the “hack” prefix added to signify that it is being modified for the tech industry, where coding is literally life.  During a hackathon, programmers work at an intense rate, trying to complete the given tasks with as little sleep as possible. While a typical hackathon takes 24-48 hours, some could extend for as long as a week. The preparatory process for the hackathon involves informing participants about the programming language, the operating system to be utilized and other important variables to ensure smooth operation during the hackathon. 

Currently, hackathons have become widespread, with increasingly bigger communities being built around them. At a good number of hackathons, expect to be graced by professional development sessions, good networking prospects and the chance to see amazing, veteran guest speakers.  Hackathons, which originated from the open-source community, are also diverse, with some meant for academic purposes and others targeted towards financial or social purposes. In particular, many businesses take advantage of hackathons to develop their products at cheap prices. 

Usually, the less time there is for a hackathon to be completed, the higher the stress levels participants are placed under. With many of these participants receiving little to no sleep, they often take short naps at the venue of the hackathon- in their sleeping bags. It is also not surprising that several stimulants are taken in an effort to stay alert and sharp for these long periods. There is rarely enough time for proper savory meals, and participants often resort to snacks and practical foods that take little time to consume. 

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