“What is all this hype surrounding hackathons and why should I attend one?”

If the above question applies to you, then welcome – you’re in the right place.

In recent years, hackathons have experienced a significant growth in number and uptake across the globe. They are weekend-long technology festivals where you can meet like-minded people, learn new things, and get the opportunity to work with cool technology.

As the EU Commissioner for Major League Hacking, I’ve attended and supported a ton of these events. Based on my experience, here are 3 reasons as to why you should attend a hackathon:

1. Hackathons are for learning

You’ll gain more practical knowledge in one hackathon than from a month of lectures. People say this all the time. Hackathons are a super-condensed learning experience. You learn about idea generation, working with others, managing a project, how to use the libraries, frameworks, and APIs that are used by software engineers every day, how to work to a deadline, how to debug, how to do version control, how to deploy, how to test and improve your work, how to present your work on stage, and much more. When you work with others, you’re going to pick up so many new tips and tricks. These are all skills which will make you a better developer and these are all skills which will help you get a job/internship.

“I learned more in one weekend than I did in the last month of lectures!”

Have you ever tried to learn something, spent an hour practicing it, then never gotten back to it? Yep? Me too. But if you have 24 solid hours to work on something, you can learn a lot. Want to learn how to code? Go to a hackathon. Want to learn a new framework? Go to a hackathon. Got a great idea for an app that you never have time to make? Go to a hackathon.

2. Hackathons are for meeting people

You’re going to make some new friends. If you’re into tech or making stuff, you’re going to love the inventive, smart, fun people you meet at hackathons. And you’ll get to meet people from all over the world. People who you’d never get a chance to meet otherwise. I know people who live on other sides of the country, but are best friends because they worked together at a hackathon. I know people who started companies together because they met at a hackathon. It’s a fantastic place to share ideas, learn from others, and build connections.

Speaking of building connections, hackathons are like career fairs on steroids. If you’re looking for an internship or a job in the tech industry, guess where companies are recruiting? At hackathons of course! Unlike career fairs, you have a proper chance to meet the developers. You can spend a weekend with them, learning from them, showing them your work, and making an impression. I also know a ton of friends who have gotten jobs directly from hackathons.

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3. Hackathons are cheap

Food, drink, and snacks are all free for the weekend! You don’t need to pay for accommodation. Some events even organize transport or (if you’re lucky) offer some travel reimbursements. Travel is really the only cost for hackathons. If there’s one near you, great! If you have to travel a bit, book travel well in advance and try finding out if there’s a coach to the hackathon that could pick you up. If you need to travel, it’s definitely worth the investment. Also, likelihood is you’re going to walk away with some cool free t-shirts, stickers, or prizes.

Great! How can I get involved?

Check out the MLH website for a list of upcoming student hackathons in the US, Europe, Canada, and Mexico. There’s also a group of over 10,000 hackers on facebook called Hackathon Hackers. In fact, Hackathon Hackers is a coummunity of dozens of facebook groups. There’s HH Virtual RealityHH Book Club, HH What Are You Working On, HH Python, HH Europe, and many more. HH Welcome is the best place to say hi and find out more about hackathons and coding. If you’re yearning for more info, check out all these articles.

But most importantly, find a hackathon near you and go to it.

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If you want to ask me any questions about hackathons, feel free to email me at [email protected], tweet me at @tfogo, or message me on facebook.

Happy hacking!

– Tim

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