As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended Codestellation this past weekend – the fourth annual beginner-friendly hackathon hosted on my campus. I had heard about it last year, but I didn’t get a chance to participate due to being busy with the start of my Master’s program. When I saw the flyers around campus for this year’s event, I knew I had to seize the opportunity to attend. I’m so excited that I did!
At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to officially participate in the competition. I felt a bit out of place at the meetings held a few weeks out, primarily because of my lack of experience. I was surrounded by computer science students tossing around words and ideas I had never heard of before. I felt even more lost when I went to a workshop briefly introducing how to use Git, a platform for collaborative coding that syncs local files on a computer with the cloud. Prior to this workshop, I had never used my computer’s command prompt before, let alone type anything in it. I tried to follow along as best as I could, but I ultimately left that meeting feeling intimidated and discouraged.
So what convinced me to go? Checking out last year’s submitted projects!
The variety was really inspiring – ranging from an app that tells you what you can cook with available ingredients in your fridge, to an interactive art tool that lets you make abstract art move. The projects ranged from simple to complex. I didn’t have to come up with something complicated or so far out of my realm of experience that I wouldn’t enjoy the challenge. Time was also a limiting factor: the hackathon was only 24 hours long, which is reduced to around 13 or 14 hours if you make time for sleep (which I most certainly did).
I also realized that this was an opportunity to try using the amount of Python I know already, in addition to the bits and pieces of HTML and CSS that I’ve picked up over the years as a blogger. (Themes don’t edit themselves!)
What I Learned
I was in a team of three, with a business graduate student and a chemistry undergraduate student. It was our first hackathon and we had minimal coding experience, which I think brought us together. I took on the role of the team’s artist: I helped design a logo, nail down our project’s context (i.e. why it was a solution to a problem), edit our presentation, and create some additional graphics. I did a little bit of HTML coding, but the most of my coding time went into a whole new realm: Django, a web development application that uses the Python language.
The biggest thing I learned was that you don’t have to be an expert to create something. The final product we managed to put together in 24 hours is by no means complete, but it’s an accomplishment that I am immensely proud of. I wasn’t as experienced in coding as some of the other attendees, but I can proudly say that I tried and that I was willing to try and learn something new (Django).
This year, there were only 8 submissions. Of these, the project that my team and I worked on won the Best Social Impact category! Although the idea for the project was not originally my own, I am so glad that I got to be involved in one of its first steps along the path to a potential startup. It was incredibly exciting, and I hope to contribute more to it in the near future!
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for more cool things!
Have you participated in a hackathon? What did you make? Let me know in the comments!