What is a hackathon and why would you want to host one?
A hackathon is a community event, where people get together to work towards a common goal, usually involving computer programming or technology development. Think of it as a modern day barn raising, where the collective energy of community members is harnessed into action.
If you've got a group of talented individuals and some problems that need solving, bringing people together for a mini hackathon is a great way to get things done!
YuKonstruct participated in a large-scale hackathon, Hacking Health, last year. When it came to rounding up the troops for the Instructables Makerspace Contest, we decided that a small mini hackathon in our makerspace was the best way to motivate our members to publish their instructables.
YuKonstruct is the first makerspace in Canada's north. Our mission is to provide access to shared space, quality tools, available expertise, and a collaborative environment to help makers build anything!
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Step 1: Plan
As a volunteer-run non-profit organization, we can't do anything without our incredible volunteers. The first step of planning our mini hackathon was choosing a date when most of our volunteers and makerspace members were available.
Set the date and time well in advance, if possible.
Find a few volunteers willing to facilitate the event.
Determine the location of the hackathon (in our case we were hosting it in our makerspace).
Step 2: Advertise
Once you have the date, time and location set, let people know about it!
We informed our members through our newsletter, included it on our website's calendar of events and posted reminders in our makerspace.
Since we are in a small community (the population of the whole Yukon is only 37,000) we sent out a press release to the local media and had the hackathon included in the newspaper's event listings.
Step 3: Set Up the Workspace
You'll need space for people to work, as well as all the tools and services they will need to get that work done.
In our case, we needed computers, space for people to set up their personal laptops, and reliable internet. We also provided a digital camera and light tent for members to take photos of their projects.
Put on a pot of coffee, boil some water for tea and set out some snacks to help keep people going.
Step 4: Other Considerations
Some things we could have done better:
Ring a bell and/or mark each accomplishment on a white board. Reward the highest achievers (even if just with praise and acknowledgement).
Prepare Contingency Plans
What will you do if the power goes out or you lose internet service?
On the night of our mini instructables hackathon the volume of activity coming from our location caused instructables.com to block our IP. If we were to host this event again, we would make sure that new users signed up before the hackathon and members created draft instructables before coming.
Step 5: Have Fun!
Working together for a common cause is very rewarding!
Don't forget to take lots of pictures and have fun.