Hackathons are put on by various associations, companies, or user groups. These developer competitions bring out the fun, energy, inspiration, and innovation of working together to build something real for a given challenge. A hackathon is an event involving various software development team members, including developers, UX designers, project managers, etc., collaborating together on software (and sometimes hardware) projects. Hackathons are often intense events, where participants are encouraged to take an idea from brainstorming to working prototype within a fixed, short period of time (e.g., 1 day to 1 week).
The compact schedule of a hackathon forces participants to learn, problem-solve and build quickly. In many cases, this also leads to a great team-building experience, as well as team members finding they had new skills or strengths. Prizes are frequently given at hackathons, which help motivate teams to finish and polish their prototype as much as possible within the given allotted time.
I have participated in a number of hackathons, won some awards, and organized some hackathons as well.
- Coolest App Award, iOSDevCamp 2013 for “The Claw” (with Mark Chen, Michael Wang, Jun Chen, Powen Ko, and Shawn Jackson) — open source game that employs multiple accessibility options to control a real robotic arm: voice input, face detection and mind control.
- Sacrifice to the Demo Gods Award, iOSDevCamp 2012 for “Chicken Dance” (with Anna Billstrom) — iOS app to capture video and song to create a random 7-second mash-up. Users can also create a gallery page and share it with friends.
- Third Place, Google Technology Users’ Group (GTUG) Campout 2010, for HTML5 Concentration meets Tetris game (with Estelle Wyle, David Gregory, JeanCarl Bisson, Siamak Ashrafi, et al).
- Best Social Game Award, iOSDevCamp 2010 for SocialPong (with Anna Billstrom).
- New Developer Award, iPadDevCamp 2010 for DicePad (with Anna Billstrom)
I’ve organized hackathons for work and for a conference. For work, a hackathon is a great team-building activity, as well as a way to accelerate progress on a certain problem or feature. For conferences, I organized a hardware hackathon with Anna Billstrom using Chibitronics for the 2015 Grace Hopper conference.