Top Three (Four) Things for a Hackathon Venue

As the weekend for HackDFW approaches, we’ve spent a lot of time enhancing our venue for the event to make it the absolute best it can be. And we want to share some of our insights with you.

It’s actually a lot harder than you would expect to find a good venue for a hackathon. First, you need enough space. This year, we’re expecting over 2,000 attendees, so we need tons of space for that. Second, you need a venue with the right infrastructure, or the ability to get it. This includes electricity and internet. Third, you need a place that doesn’t restrict you too much – a lot of convention centers and other places like that will have catering agreements or other exclusive relationships that mean you have to use their providers for all your services.

Space:

Fortunately for us, Gilley’s Dallas is not only a pretty rocking concert venue, but also has a lot of space for everyone to work. In the main hacking areas, which encompass all of the rooms on the ground floor, you’ll find screens streaming the action from all around the venue as well as giving out announcements and important information. You’ll also have tons of room to spread out, since we’ve got over 91,000 square feet of space. And sponsors will be scattered throughout so you’ll never be too far from them.

Connectivity:

Yeah, internet. Pretty important for a hackathon, right?  But never fear, with the help from Opus-3, we were able to install 2GB of fiber into Gilley’s! We also have support from a leading wireless manufacturer to make sure your internet connection is rock-solid. We also brought in tons of electrical wiring and cabling to make sure that we got everyone the power they need to make great things.

Personal Amenities:

We’re talking things like bathrooms, food, drinks…all the things that you don’t really think about…until you don’t have them. Never fear, though, HackDFW has got you covered. We have some pretty AMAZING food and drinks (think RedBull to keep you up alllllllllll night).

 

And…

 

Creative Inspiration:

So Gilley’s has this cool upstairs area called The Loft where we will be setting up some pretty cool activities. It’ll be decked out with bean bags and white boards to allow you to chill out with your team and ideate. We’ll also have workshops with professionals to help you make the most of your time at HackDFW. At night, it’ll turn into a sleeping room where you can catch a few hours before going back to work. It’s also got a patio for a brief step outside where you can get a great view of the beautiful Dallas skyline.

All-in-all, it’s shaping up to be a pretty awesome venue for HackDFW. But really anyone can apply these three (four) simple ideas to any hackathon venue. It’s all about determining your needs and then planning for them.

And we hope you’ll check out our venue at HackDFW in a week! Happy hacking!

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

Networking @ Hackathons

Written by: Mimi Duong

I bet you cannot wait to rush to your own cozy little area with the rest of your teammates so you can start building that awesome invention you and your teammates came up with. And that’s great! But you’re missing one of the biggest opportunities to meet people, listen to their experiences, and connect with them. You are missing the opportunity to network at hackathons.

You’ll never know what you can get out of talking to all of those engineers sitting in the sponsor booths — from learning about what their companies do to the different programming languages and frameworks they value, from getting some cool company freebies to receiving a possible interview leading to an internship for the summer!

And yes, this is all from personal experience.

So, what is networking?

To me, it is a very simple concept: meeting people. It is the creation of a professional relationship between two people. It is not all about you and for your own benefit, contrary to popular beliefs. It is the same as if you were to connect with your peers or coworkers on a professional level.

However this professional relationship can come in handy. These people you meet may be able to shed insight onto the company you may be applying for later on. Some of these insights may be the work culture, the company’s values, what the company looks for in a candidate, etc.

If you know some employees on a first hand basis, these insights may be more accessible to you in the future. And who knows, maybe they’ll even recommend you for the job if you are qualified! They may even reach out to you in a similar aspect in the future.

But when am I supposed to network at a hackathon?

Honestly, it doesn’t really matter — many of the company employees’ stay there for all the 24 to 48 hours of the hackathon. Do it when you’re going out to grab a fresh bottle of water or when you want a small break from your project. On your walk, you’ll probably pass by a booth or a table of a company. And during that moment, just stop by and introduce yourself.

OK. But what am I supposed to talk about?

This is all up to you. What do you want to know about? Depending on the company, there may be different questions you want to ask. But one thing I always strive to talk about is about their experiences. Their experiences will speak a lot about the company itself, and what it is like to be in an engineer’s shoes. It gives you grounds for comparison, and a little bit more insight on how that company may or may not suitable you.

And after a bit of discussion, put yourself in the conversation — who you are, and what is your possible relations to the company. Get to know the person you are talking to and receive their inputs and advice. This way, you both exchange information about yourselves to each other, thus creating a professional relationship.

Not sure about the topics? Here are some things I asked about:

  • What is your role at the company?
  • Do you enjoy what you do?
  • What are some examples of projects you work on?
  • What kinds of frameworks do you use?
    • Which do you find valuable?
    • What’s your favorite?
  • What is your company’s mission?
  • Why is your company here — at this hackathon specifically?

But don’t try so hard to make it guided. It is a discussion, show your personality through it. Let them know who you are as well. When you’re asking these questions, offer your own answers. Receive their inputs and advice. If you only ask questions, you become a bystander and will unlikely to make a personal connection with these engineers.

Getting Started

At the hackathon, approach the table of the company that you are genuinely interested in learning about — whether it is why they are there, what their work culture is like, or what kind(s) of products they work on.

Introduce yourself — tell them a bit about you. Who are you? Why did you approach them? And then ask the question(s) you wanted to ask. From there, the conversation should start to flow.

And if it doesn’t? Try another employee or if they flat out seem disinterested in you (which has happened to me) try to understand why. Sometimes you may even come to the revelation that maybe your personality might not mesh with the company’s or what the company’s value or seeks. And this is totally OK.

You can always just go to the next company that you’re interested in!

Good luck! And remember to follow up after the hackathons 🙂

 

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

The (Opportunity) Cost of a Free Hackathon

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Chances are, if you’ve been to any intro-level economics class, you’ve heard this pithy line. It applies well to economics but also, unfortunately, to hackathons. Yes, those “free” events that you attend are anything but.

In the days before the corporate hackathon, the idea of a hackathon consisted of some fellow coders getting together to work on programming projects as a team. The keyword here is “some.” Now, hackathons can have 2000+ coders coming together for a giant-sized event. Obviously this is going to be expensive, but sometimes the cost gets overlooked because these events are free.

Hackathons’ budgets can range from $50,000 to $250,000. For most people, that’s the cost of their entire undergraduate college tuition. It’s quite a lot of money, which goes into various things from prizes to travel to venue rental fees to food to swag. There are many things that all contribute to the hackathon experience that are unfortunately not free.

The issue then becomes what do you get rid of? Hackathons each struggle with their own opportunity costs, or the next best alternative option. Each event is trying to garner more attention in the media, increase attendance, and get its name out into the programming world. Turning back to our economics analogy, logically the best way to do this is to offer more and more “perks” in order to offset the opportunity cost of attending a different hackathon or none at all. Therefore, they have to add additional incentives like water bottles, T-shirts, food, hardware, even therapy puppies (yes, HackDFW had those last year).

And then, as coders, you have your own opportunity costs. You sacrifice your weekend for sleepless nights, minimal exercise, and less-than-desirable food. The event might be free to go, but you leave with more than you bargained for. Isn’t it all part of the hackathon “charm”? Yes, but that is a choice you have to make, and every hackathon wants to be THAT choice.

Sure, there are those serial coders who compete year round at different hackathons, using the prize money as income. However, most of us do not have that opportunity and have limited time. Time that could be spent somewhere else or even at other hackathons.

So not only are hackathons expensive events, but they are expensive because they are trying to be THE BEST. Getting people to sign up (much less attend) is difficult, especially now that there are so many different events out there and people can only go to so many. People complain that hackathons are becoming corporate entities, but the reality is that they have no other choice if they want to be among the large scale events of today.

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

How to Stay Healthy at a Hackathon

Contributors: Anna-Maria Reiter, Director of Food and Healthy Hacking for HackDFW

Whether you’re at a hackathon, viciously trying to finish a program on time for class, or in the middle of a huge school or work project, chances are you’re going to be sitting for long periods of time, only occasionally getting up to go to the bathroom or to grab some noms. Certain habits such as sitting or using a computer can lead to a variety of health issues grouped under “computer related injuries”- no, this does not include being hit by a falling desktop…but it does include head/neck and lower back problems, disk injury, improper breathing patterns, and nerve compression¹.

These problems begin in college, but can become chronic as you enter the workforce. Interestingly, a Harvard study found that engineering students in particular are more likely to complain about these symptoms as compared to students from other majors, with graduate students being more affected by chronic pain than undergrads¹.

Thankfully, the issue is beginning to get more attention, and universities like Princeton now provide their students with guidelines for setting their desks up properly– urging them to keep a certain distance between themselves and the screen and reminding them to reduce strain on hands and wrists wherever possible as they sit and type at a keyboard for longer periods of time². However, you don’t necessarily have to have a sophisticated stand-up desk in order to improve your posture while working. You can set a recurring reminder on your phone that encourages you to take a 500-step walk once every hour; this can help protect you against repetitive strain injuries and fatigue in your back muscles.

We’ve all probably been told at one point or another that we should straighten our backs or push our shoulders back. UT Dallas professor and professional yoga instructor Terry Gold has a different suggestion – he preaches to his students that they should always engage their leg muscles, even while sitting in a chair. By putting them to work, he says, you can avoid strain on your back which allows your shoulders to relax (and your neck will follow their lead). Start by firmly planting your feet on the ground, slightly pushing yourself off the ground with your legs; become aware of the difference between sitting with and without using your legs to support your back.

When you are at your next hackathon, try to listen to your body; go for a walk, stretch, or sit in a different position. Make a regular water or (healthy) snack run for you and your teammates to get in some movement and decompress your back. Don’t forget to stay hydrated to maintain the cushion in your vertebral column and to prevent back pain.

…And even though the holidays are behind us, don’t forget the good resolutions you made for 2016, particularly those involving healthy foods. Changing your eating habits can also go a long way to keeping your body in tip top shape for hacking.  

Most websites recommend study snacks like cauliflower pizza bites or low sodium beef jerky…however, if your first thoughts are “expensive” and “too time consuming,” we would have to agree with you (most college students probably would as well). Instead, check out nerdfitness.com (for those who are ready to jump right into a health kick) for some non-BS tips on how to amp up your fitness from your dorm room; they even have advice for those who are stuck on a tasteless campus meal plan or who don’t have access to a kitchen. For others who would prefer to dip their toes in first, theslenderstudent.com has some easy and fun recipes- many of which just require a microwave.

Remember, even if you’re in a crunch period, working around the clock at an event like a hackathon, or trying to reach a deadline, don’t forget to take care of your body as well. Just as a software program needs a firm foundation before you can continue coding, your body also needs a strong base. This includes your back and neck. By taking small steps to improve your posture and eating habits, you can not only come out with a bomb program but a rockin’ hot bod as well. The best kind of changes you can make are the ones that you can stick to. So good luck on all your healthy hacking endeavors!

Sources:

1 ieee.org

2 Princeton University Health Services

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

HackDFW: Code and Save Lives

Contributors: Anna Maria Reiter, HackDFW Director of Food and Healthy Hacking Ideas

At your last hackathon, did you watch or create an app intended to improve your health and wellbeing? Innovative technology is giving us an incredible platform to develop things that will help keep us fit and healthy and that will hopefully build smarter, more empowered communities that make better, more informed choices. However, we shouldn’t forget about the “human” piece of the puzzle–where and how we can help our communities right here, right now. In that spirit, HackDFW is teaming up with Be The Match–the world’s largest marrow donor program, coordinating marrow donations and screenings around the world.

Perhaps you have heard of the importance of a marrow transplant in treating Leukemia (or blood cancer), but in fact over 70 diseases, including various cancers and other blood conditions, can be cured and treated by a donor transplant, and, given that somebody dies from Leukemia alone every 10 minutes, there are many reasons to join a registry as a donor. What do you have to do to become registered?All it takes to get started is a swab of your cheek sent off for advanced genetic testing to hopefully match you with someone in need of a transplant.

Unlike blood donation, marrow donation places fewer restrictions on donors. For example, being born outside of the U.S is not an exclusionary criterion for the process. As our society becomes more diverse, so do the people who need marrow donations. Unfortunately, bone marrow matches depend highly on genes, so donors with a diverse genetic background are high in demand and currently scarce in supply. So, in many ways, this issue directly impacts our community of STEM students around the world.

At HackDFW, we will have reps from Be The Match conducting screenings, so we hope that you will join our team in helping this important cause.  By coming to HackDFW and getting screened, you could “Be the Match” that saves someone’s life. Make sure to check out their website bethematch.org to learn about the many different ways of getting involve and to understand more about the process and the commitment it takes to be part of someone’s cure.

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

How to Land a Bomb Tech Internship

Originally Written By: Ian Macalinao, HackDFW Director of Technology

Do you want to get better at programming while improving job prospects and making some good money on the side? Of course you do. Solution: an internship in technology!

Internship
Picture from GeekWire

I’ve had 3 internships — one at a company doing web development, one at a really cool startup in San Francisco called IFTTT, and one during the school year doing big data-related things at a company called ResearchNow. I am currently interning at Uber for the spring semester, and I’ll be at Google in the summer. In this article, I’ll be talking about how to land these jobs.

Where to apply:

You should visit your school’s career fair if you want local internships. This is a great option if you haven’t had an internship before and are looking for a good place to start. Job searching at Hackathons can be better than career fairs, however, because it shows that you have a true passion for what you do.

Make a list of apps and other kinds of services that you use normally, and figure out the companies associated with them. E.g. if you’re a League of Legends fan, apply to Riot Games. It really helps to know the product beforehand, as during your interview you can even show what you’d do to improve it or what you like about it.

Skills:

Make sure you have the skills you need for the job. For Dallas-area companies, usually this means you have written code before. Learn the specific skills that are required for the position you’re applying for.

For SF Bay Area companies, it’s a little tougher, especially for the more popular companies like Google and Facebook. You’ll have to study algorithms, as they often ask coding questions at interviews. Read Cracking the Coding Interview and practice the questions. Also, make sure you know the skills you’ve listed on your resume in detail. And make sure that these skills are easily visible on your resume, as explained further in Getting a Gig. Also, if you can’t talk about the skill for 5 minutes, you probably shouldn’t have it on your resume.  

When to apply:

It’s ideal to apply in September or October, as that’s when most companies start hiring summer interns. That doesn’t mean you can’t apply in the spring though — startups especially hire year round.

Your resume and cover letter:

Make sure your resume and cover letter communicate how amazing you are–what you have done and what you can do. Cassidy Williams has written a pretty good guide on this here.

Getting the interview:

Getting the interview is one of the hardest parts, especially if you haven’t had an internship before. I’ve listed some common techniques on accomplishing this.

Interview`
Picture from Beyond Career Success

Use connections:

Do you have a family member that works at the company? Great — you can ask them to refer you. Make sure this family member knows how good you are so they give a good referral.Build good relationships with your professors. Chances are they know people from major companies in the area. If they like you, they’ll help you land interviews at companies. If you have friends that have interned at places you’d like to intern at, let them know. They can refer you internally.Furthermore, if you have friends that live in the area you’d like to intern at, chances are high that they know other people in technology in that area. You should ask them if they know any companies that are looking for interns.

Build connections:

Connections are very useful — you should meet as many people as you can in your industry. They can help you land interviews and improve the company’s opinion of you (and vice versa).

Collegiate Hackathons

If you don’t have connections in the first place, hackathons are a really good way to meet companies from the area. Many Dallas-based companies sponsor and attend HackDFW, so make sure to interact with everyone that you may be interested in working for.

After you’ve attended HackDFW, you might try out-of-state hackathons as well. These will also help with getting jobs that are not necessarily in the Dallas area (e.g. Google, Microsoft, Riot Games, IBM, etc.). Large companies tend to sponsor multiple hackathons, so it’d be very useful to know people from different parts of the company. At a hackathon, you should make your skill set clear to sponsors and show them why you’d be a good fit for their company. If they have a prize, try winning it — they’ll be more inclined to interview you if you’ve shown them that you are capable. Don’t forget to exchange contact information!

Non-collegiate Hackathons

Often, at non-collegiate hackathons, people from companies will be participating. Network! Make sure to meet the other people around you. If you’re interested in potentially working with them, get their LinkedIn or business card and be sure to follow up after the event.

Meetups

Local meetups/events are full of people interested in technology. These kinds of people are always looking for motivated people to work with, and simply showing up to the event and being interested in the subject shows your drive.

Attend meetups of what you’re interested in. If you’re an app developer, look for Android/iOS meetups. If you’re a web developer, look for JavaScript meetups, and so on.  The more niche the technology, the better — an Erlang user group probably has a much harder time looking for people than a JavaScript one does.

If you’re looking for some around HackDFW, the Dallas/Fort Worth area has quite a few, including Diversity in Technology, WATT (Women Advancing Technology Together), and Tech in Motion. And be sure to exchange LinkedIn’s or business cards, and again, follow up. Conferences are also great to attend, and they often have student discounts. They’re also really fun, especially if they’re in Las Vegas (e.g. Defcon). Go with friends!

Cold emails

Emailing employers directly can get you far. You can find emails from places like LinkedIn, or you can use tools such as SellHack to find emails. Often it’s as simple as [email protected], so you can try that if you can’t find an email anywhere. You can also send someone a LinkedIn request with a short message explaining who you are and why you want to work there, then send them a message afterwards. However, this can be seen as spammy and you should be careful about this method.

If we’re talking about large companies, I don’t recommend this, as it’s very difficult and doesn’t really work. Likely, you’ll end up annoying the person more than making them want to hire you.

However, with startups, since there’s not much overhead, employees have a lot of influence over who’s hired. If the startup has over 100 people, you may want to email employees working on the team you are interested in joining and describe why you really want to work on that team. You can even suggest a project that you could work on. If it’s smaller than this, you can probably email the founders directly. Again, suggest a project and explain why you’d be a good fit for the company. I recommend not sending emails to more than 2 people if it’s a startup, as they’ll think negatively of you if you ‘ve emailed everyone that works there.

Apply online

If all else fails, apply online. Make sure you write a good cover letter specific to the company you’re applying for.

Interviewing

There’s a lot of guides on this out there, but I believe Cracking the Coding Interview is a really good resource for this. Make sure you can back up what you put on your res

Two businesspeople in suits shaking hands and smiling.
Picture from Queen’s University Career Services

ume.

Other reading

There’s a lot of material on the internet that’s related to getting jobs. The following are some of my favorite:

Conclusion

There’s a lot of ways to increase your chances of getting an internship. Don’t just upload your resume to their website. Good luck on your search!

License

CC-BY-SA

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

Hackanthropy: The Innovative Way to Serve

Written By: Cecilia Weigman, HackDFW Marketing

Hack-anthropy: A form of philanthropy that centers around software and hardware development, specifically at hackathons. It is not necessarily Silicon Valley tech kings like Mark Zuckerberg deciding that they should probably be using their filthy rich status for good. No, hackanthropy is the utilization of hackathons to promote a culture of social change and welfare. The rise of the corporate hackathon has received many dings for being too money-centered, be it through huge monetary prizes, sponsor donations, or big budgets that allow for free swag and other meaningless items. Some argue these pressures, especially the pressure to win prizes, alienate participants, creating a culture of distrust and segmentation rather than goodwill and cooperation. This needs to change.

Hackathons weren’t always about the competition. They were more about building cool stuff in a casual, collaborative setting.

These first hackathons truly fostered a teamwork mentality necessary for tech development. Creating programs, debugging code, inventing machinery–these all take the minds of many different people working together to build something great. Without this camaraderie, hackathons lack a key component: the community. noun_76078_ccAnyone can sit alone for a given time period and bang out a project. People get so caught up in catering to the judges to win a prize that they forget the reason behind their work, the passion that drives them to come to these events, the people they are working with or are trying to help. 

Something needs to change. But what? Hackathons are growing in number and scope and, as this expansion occurs, these events need to find something to differentiate themselves in order to encourage attendance. They seem to be getting the “bigger and better” part down pretty well, but as they expand they begin to lose the elements that made them so popular in the first place. They lack the heart behind the tech.

Hackanthropy is about putting this heart into the machine (Tin Man from Wizard of Oz ring a bell?) and creating something useful for people; useful in the way that it betters others lives. For example, the NHS Navigation Hackathon has an end goal of creating an app to help refugees and migrants with health care when they immigrate to the U.K. In a world where the Syrian refugee crisis is straining the governments of multiple  countries, these developments could be just what the world needs to help our fellow humans displaced by war.

wiz_c038
Tin Man receiving his heart. Picture from tinmanflynn.blogspot.com.

Using tech to serve others is not uncommon, so why are there so few hackathons out there encouraging this form of tech development? Or if there are, they are not as well known, or have the funds necessary to be successful. Even if the hackathon isn’t centered around social change itself, there are plenty of opportunities to create your own solution through a hackathon. For example, HackDFW reaches out to the community by inviting companies to pose a programming challenge to the hackers. Our team is working towards creating a community outreach challenge to give our participants the opportunity to solve issues affecting the Dallas area and beyond. Applying philanthropy to hackathons could significantly change the world in which we live. Imagine, in 24 or less hours you could create something that would leave this world better off than it was before.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This content is Copyright HackDFW.

A Hacker’s Toolkit

Originally written by Cyrus Roshan as “A Hardware Hacker’s Kit”

If you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably either been to a hackathon or are about to attend one. However, no matter the skill level, it can’t hurt to make sure you’re well equipped. As the Boy Scouts say, — “Always be prepared.” And I mean, if you think about it, a hackathon is like a giant, indoor camp out,  except instead of making s’mores, you create software and hardware!

Fortunately, the venue for HackDFW (TBA!) is much more conducive to hacking than a campground, and we have a solid hardware setup, so you should have everything you need. At hackathons without easy access to hardware, here’s an example list of what could be useful to bring. There’s also a section on helping you figure out which board to use for a project as well as a section containing some cool hardware projects to inspire you.

So now for the hardware…

Honestly, you won’t need everything on this list; you’ll probably use less than a third of it for a single project, and you’ll probably have projects that might need something more than what I’ve listed. But such is the life of a hacker. Nevertheless, it’s always good to be prepared. And it’s much more difficult to scramble around last minute for another sensor for a hardware project than, say, downloading another library for a software project.

What you’ll want:

Basics: Without these, it will be a challenge to make a great hardware project.

  • Dev Board (an Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Photon, NodeMCU, etc.)
  • Cable (whichever your board needs)
  • Breadboard
  • Jumper wires (optionally include alligator clips)
  • Resistors

Tools: Some things that’ll make working with hardware a lot easier.

  • Needle-nose pliers (with built-in wire cutters)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Superglue
  • Electric tape
  • Multimeter (this might be too bulky, I don’t always bring one)

Input and Output:  You can’t do much with just the list of above items. You’ll need some of the following, depending on what you’re working on, to get a solid project. Fortunately, this list has got you covered.

Small components: These are tools not mounted on a board of their own.
  •  LEDs
  • Photoresistors
  • Reflective IR
  • IR Transmitter/Receiver LEDs
  • Transistors
  • Capacitors
  • Piezos
  • Humidity sensor
  • Temperature sensor
  • Hall sensors
  • Vibration Motors
  • Tilt/vibration sensors
  • DC Motors
  • Push button switches
  • Flex sensors (a bit more expensive, I’d only get one)
  • Force sensitive resistors (same as above)
Larger Components: Self-explanatory–they’re bigger.
  • Servos
  • Pulse sensor
  • Ultrasonic range sensors
  • Gyro/Accelerometer (usually have both on the same breakout board)
  • LCD screen (preferably with I2C for less wires)
  • Bluetooth module (you’ll need one with BLE support for iPhones)

Additional Power: For powering your board or components that require more voltage.

  • Relay module
  • Breadboard psu
  • 9v Batteries (not for your dev board, for powering a motor that needs more than it can handle. Use with transistor to switch on/off)
  • Rechargeable power bank (for when you want to power your dev board without having it hooked to your laptop)

Where to get them?

So now that you know what to get, where do you get it? If you’re looking for reliability, try this site or this one or my favorite of the three (because of their nice guides and docs). If you’re looking to save money (and it does cost a decent amount), check out this site for components and your local dollar tree for superglue/electric tape/pliers/etc.

Which board to use?

Each board is useful for different things. For this, I’m just going to be comparing the three most popular: Arduino UNO, Raspberry Pi 2, and Particle Photon.

There are a few factors that I consider when picking a board: setup time, usage, and language. Each board has its own unique characteristics, and there are pros and cons to using each of them at a hackathon. Unfortunately, that is a REALLY long list, so we have a link here to the longer version of this blog. It really goes in depth about each board’s qualities and is very useful.

And last but not least…Some cool hardware projects!

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are a few hardware projects to check out:

  • Sesame, an app which lets you remotely unlock your door via a smartwatch voice command.
  • A mini handheld Tetris console, which is amazingly small, powered with a LiPo battery, and controlled with push buttons.
  • Fifth Sense, a tool to for blind people to send and receive data. Uses buttons for input, vibration motors for output

 

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

 

Top 5 Unexpected Benefits from Sponsoring a Hackathon

Contributors: Julian Kila, CFO HackDFW, and Saad Abughazaleh, COO HackDFW

If someone said “Sponsor a hackathon!,” the response tends to be, “I can’t support hackers!” Well, first off, hackathons are not for literal hackers. They’re competitions for programmers to innovate and build. Second, anyone can help sponsor a hackathon! Most companies don’t know the treasure trove of benefits that they provide; sometimes even for FREE! How is this possible? Keep reading these top unexpected benefits and you’ll find out.

1) Recruiting pool of world-class studens

Put simply, Hackathons attract a wide range of top-tier developers and engineers. This makes them a great place for companies and recruiters to meet talented individuals, see their skills on site, and evaluate how they fare under pressure. On top of that, hackathons showcase soft skills that otherwise wouldn’t appear in a resume, such as passion and creativity. How else could you convince someone to be sleep-deprived for 24+ hours while programming non-stop?

2) Local, national, and global brand recognition

As both nation-wide and worldwide events, hackathons typically have the advantage of local, national, and global brand recognition. This gives sponsors an opportunity to capitalize on the buzz and ride the wave. Not to mention that philanthropy and helping the community is always great PR. But it’s not just about the event; sponsoring a hackathon makes you partners. This allows hackathons to go a step further and advertise the who sponsored them, further spreading the brand.

3) Real world API-testing and exposure

It’s the 21st century. No matter what the industry, every company has a backend API. Whether open-source or not, a hackathon provides real-world testing and exposure for these interfaces. Sponsors even have the ability to guide their creativity by providing Challenges, where they provide a criteria such as “Most Technical Application with Our API” or “Most Creative Mobile Program that Uses the Internet.” Either way, companies have the opportunity to release their API to a group of creative techies who will find unique applications and creative uses for it. They might even find and fix a bug or two!

4) Tax-deductible sponsorships

When it comes to corporations, two things are guaranteed: taxes and more taxes. Hackathons can help with that. No, not in that sense, but many hackathons are 501(c)(3) entities, which classifies them as a Non-Profit. This means that the sponsorship is tax-deductible and effectively free by writing it off! Take that company vacation to the Bahamas!

5) Leaders in the STEM Industry

Sponsors to hackathons get recognition as significant contributors to the STEM Industry. Hackathons work on building innovation, entrepreneurship, and technical skills in their participants, giving them the tools they need to propel the industry forward. This involvement provides the opportunity to participate in the process of developing an innovative and entrepreneurial generation of students!

This content is Copyright HackDFW.

How to Explain a Hackathon to a Non-Hacker

Contributors: Atticus Pelitera, HackDFW Marketing

Being hackers, you generally know what to expect at a hackathon, but explaining the concept to someone else is a completely different story. Whether it’s your family, peers, young, or old, we hope these tips and explanations will save you from having to reassure people that you aren’t going to a hackathon to steal private information from their computers (I’m not THAT kind of hacker!).

THIS is what we’re talking about:

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Picture from Central Track article by Kathy Tran

Hundreds of like-minded people coming together and collaborating to create amazing projects like these:

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Picture from Central Track article by Kathy Tran

And even getting to present them to world-famous judges:

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Picture from Central Track article by Kathy Tran

However, explaining exactly what a hackathon is to someone can be difficult if you don’t have pictures that speak for themselves. It’s most important when explaining to keep in mind the type of person you are talking to.

Younger kids and older adults (like grandparents)

Probably need a more distilled version, i.e. “a hackathon is like a giant sleepover where you make anything from robots to phone apps to websites.” Generally, you won’t need to go beyond that.

For people ages 15+ (i.e. mentees, friends and peers, young adults)

Try starting your explanation out with, “a hackathon is where a bunch of us get together for 24-36+ hours to create innovative tech solutions to problems in our society or just our lives.” If that gets their attention and they are really interested, you could direct them to sign up at HackDFW’s website.

Potential employers

They will require a different approach. Start with a general, “Have you ever heard of hackathons?” From there, you explain just what it is you do: you build, compete, innovate, and network. Give examples of what you’ve done before or what you’ve seen others do, very clean-cut and straightforward. These opportunities can also provide new networking possibilities as well as a means of showing off “your stuff.” As always, if they need more info, you can send them online.

As a hacker, you are passionate, brilliant, and hardworking. You know that hackathons are amazing opportunities to create something new and innovative that could change the world in which we live. So share that excitement with others and maybe even inspire them to get involved as well. Hey, you could be the next Steve Jobs or might inspire the next Bill Gates.

This content is Copyright HackDFW