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How to apply for a student hackathon

Student hackathons are a strategic partnership between tech and learning. Source: Shutterstock

Otherwise known as a hack day, a hackfest or a codefest, student hackathons are gaining in popularity across universities worldwide.

Despite the negative terms associated with ‘hacking’, a hackathon refers to building something new together.

These hackathons are usually a day-long event where student software programmers, tech developers, graphic designers and more come together to build and design something innovative and inspiring.

And the best part about it is that you don’t necessarily need expert programming experience; supportive mentors are often on-hand to assist with any queries or problems participants face throughout the day.

Strategise your teamwork and tech skills with a student hackathon. Source: Alex Kotliarskyi/ Unsplash

Student hackathons can be located on campus; therefore, universities will have their own application methods available.

However, there are hundreds of student hackathons happening all over the world with similar application structures.

What do students bring to a hackathon?

Student hackathons usually require you to bring your student ID, a laptop, and a charger.

Food is often provided, and sometimes students plan to sleep at the event. Therefore, hackathon organisers expect you to bring a sleeping bag, warm clothing and a blanket to stay comfortable if you plan on doing so.

Are you qualified?

The golden FAQ for all student hackathons is learners asking if they’re experienced enough to attend or if they’re good enough to be in a hackathon team.

Most student hackathons will welcome beginners, as it’s an educational and experiential learning experience.

Unless it’s a specific type of hackathon that only invites informatics professionals, telecommunications professionals, researchers working on internet measurements or advanced technology degree students; then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t apply and bring your tech passion to the table!

What do I have to do?

The purpose of a student hackathon may differ.

For example, if you take a look at UNIHACK in Australia, they want you to get into a team of four to six students and build your idea. This can be an app, website, device or anything that you want.

They will then expect you to pitch it in order to win prizes, while they provide you with the mentors, workshops, and food and drinks to keep you going.

Judging your team’s idea on originality, technical difficulty, usefulness, polish and design, the UNIHACK student hackathon wants you to fulfil a real need that the community, the broader society or the target audience has and to ensure that the user experience is smooth.

The student hackathon you plan to apply for may not have that exact criterion, but usually, the organisers will want you to build something with creativity and usability.

How do I find a team?

If there isn’t a student hackathon society set up at your university yet, then try posting about potential opportunities to create a team on campus.

You can go to your student union and request an advertising space on their magazine or their website, or you can spread the word at tech-focused student societies.

Plus, if you want to practice before you enter national hackathons or international hackathons, why not set your own hackathon up on campus and trial your ideas out with your new teammates?

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