How To Win Hackathons and Influence Prizes by Andrew Carnegie

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I just got back from Hoya Hacks, a hackathon a Georgetown this past weekend. Someone asked me by email what tips I had to win hackathons (since I have won multiple prizes heh heh :), and I responded:

  • Incorporate some hardware, such as Raspberry Pi or Arduino. Hoya Hacks didn’t have a prize for best hardware, but some do and either way, hardware usually makes your project stand out.
  • I like to bring my own hardware because the MLH hardware lab sometimes doesn’t have a great selection, or they run out. If you come to Bitcamp (at UMD in April), I can lend you some stuff. Make sure hardware works before the event. If you are going to use a Raspberry Pi, for example, make sure it boots up, you remember the password, install updates, etc.
  • Go for the challenges, for example we used MongoDB to store our data even though we could have just put it in a file. We didn’t win the MongoDB prize, but I did learn a lot. Also we spent some time brainstorming a domain name, which is how we won the award for best domain.
  • Make something fun: at bitcamp last year, we made a trash can that insults you when you put recycling in, and won most entertaining! (it actually couldn’t tell between trash and recycling, so it would always insult you :)
  • Or make something you need/want, that way even if you don’t win, you can still use it! One time we made a chatbot, and we didn’t win but I still enjoy talking to it sometimes:
  • Add this stuff to your resume, and you can even include a link to the project. Employers will be impressed that not only do you know flask, but you also have a public flask app on the internet to prove it! And if you ask me, getting an internship means you were the real hackathon winner. :)

Here’s some upcoming hackathons at umd:

Good luck, and let me know if you have any more questions about this stuff! (Same goes to you, the blog reader, feel free to get in touch.)

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