Laughter, Learning, and a lot of Coding: The Dos and Don'ts of Team Hackathons

Laughter, Learning, and a lot of Coding: The Dos and Don'ts of Team Hackathons


When you start your open source journey, there are two major milestones that you will encounter: making your first contribution and attending your first hackathon. It is a wacky event where cool ideas born out of late-night coffee-fueled coding sessions turn into awesome projects(if you prefer to drink tea or water during these sessions, that's fine too!)! 😄 Sounds fun right? Well, before you run to register, I am going to give you some dos and don’ts on making it through your first hackathon.

An adorable version of Dr Strange invites you into the gold portal.

The Do's of Hackathons

  • Do pick your niche: I know, I know this sounds cliché, but hear me out. Picking a hackathon is like going to Baskin and Robbins (or any famous ice cream shop in your area!) and trying all 31 flavors before choosing the flavor you actually want, so I highly recommend that you chose a hackathon that suits your interest. In my case, I decided to go with SheBuilds due to its focus on gender inclusivity and encouraging participants to be creative with their projects.

  • Do pick a project that you and your teammates agree on: Just like choosing an outfit for your first date, it’s important for you to choose a hackathon project that screams “pick me” to you and your team. It’ll make the late-night coding sessions bearable. For SheBuilds, my teammate, Rossella Ferrandino, and I wanted to do something for their Women Empowerment track and Dean wanted to create a chatbot. So, we combined these two ideas together and came up with Entreprenheur, a web-based chatbot that helps women find mentors and other resources to aid them in their entrepreneurial journey. Click here to view our demonstration of the chatbot. If you want to use it, check out our repository.

    • Do adapt to changes in your project: Let’s be honest, hackathons can get stressful and there’s nothing worse than realizing that a task you originally thought was easy is actually hard. For example, I initially decided to work on the HTML portion of the project since it’s one of the languages that I am stronger in, but then I found myself struggling with formulating the code. So, I decided to split this task with my teammate, Dean Loft, and focused my attention on developing the chatbot’s script.

The Don'ts of Team Hackathons

Yay, we made it through the Dos! 😄Now before we open the bottle of sparkling juice, here are some things to avoid when attending your first hackathon:

  • Don’t underestimate the deadline: I’m going to be honest with you, hackathons tend to be short, so there are some of your initial ideas won’t a part of the final version of your project. For example, I wanted to add a feature where users can type their responses to the chatbot, but decided not to since Dean mentioned that building this feature would cause us to submit our project past the deadline.

  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help: I know you don’t want to seem like an idiot in front of your teammates, but trust me, asking for help will make the hackathon so much more bearable. For instance, I found myself struggling with finding time to write the script for our project’s video demonstration, so Dean wrote some ideas, then, Rossella and I provided feedback on it. Remember, it takes a digital village to raise a hackathon project, so don’t be afraid to ask.

  • Don’t forget to have fun: Contrary to popular belief, hackathons are not always about being intense and competitive, they’re about having fun and making memories. My teammates and I would tell each other jokes, talk about how our days had been going, and share things like YouTube videos. It made the process of building our chatbot go by quickly.


There you have it folks! 😁 I hope you find my tips helpful! Remember, pick a project that fits, work with your team, and have fun! Til’ we meet again my hackies!

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