12 tips to survive a hackathon

Hackathon infographic

Have you signed up for a hackathon, or planning to? You know, those large gatherings where folks meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. Believers swear that hackathons drive innovation, spur creativity, drive teamwork, as well as provide real solutions to key issues being faced by communities and people all over the world.

Anyway, PayPal and Braintree sent along the below 12 tips on how to survive (and thrive) at a hackathon. Check them out and let me know if they are of any help to you!


Get some sleep!

As Singaporeans, we’re atrocious at this – especially with Facebook, WhatsApp and the constant need to be connected. In two to three nights leading up to Game Day, get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. It’ll give your brain a break and ensure that you’re rested and not lagging behind on event day.

Get a solid team

Hackathons aren’t about silo work flows. It’s about working with your team to deliver and build something truly excellent. Be sure to take some time to chat with your team – know your team mates think, understand how they like to work, their personal goals and them! You’re spending 24 hours together in close proximity and may eventually turn your hack into a start-up, so get it right, from the start!

Be ready – prepare

Make sure you know what your hackathon is about, what the overall goal is and the gear you’re going to need to bring and what will be available to you. The worst thing is being at the event and realising you’re missing a couple of key things that’ll keep you unnerved. Make sure you know what code and databases you’ll be working with & brush up on your rails, java and PHP!

Pack right

The worst thing is turning up to a hack without the right gear! Here are a couple of things we’d suggest

  • Toiletries: Contact lens solution, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hygiene products, deodorant, mouthwash, face wash – you know what works best for you!
  • Change of Clothes: Bring a fresh pair of clothes and be sure to be comfortable
  • Bedding: A blanket or wrap and inflatable pillow
  • Tech: Mouse, keyboard, laptop, camera (you’ll want to tweet and Facebook things, come on!)

Hackathon infographic THE DAY OF BATTLE

Listen HARD – The introductions

You’re excited, there are a ton of people in the room and you’re finally at your hackathon. Listen to the introductory talks and be sure to know the schedule, timeline, challenge and parameters you’re going to need to be working in.

Sign up for rehearsals

At some hackathons like BattleHack, you’ll be provided with the opportunity for rehearsals. These rehearsals, give you the opportunity to plug and play all your hardware and accessories, to ensure there are no technical difficulties. Be sure to get in early and select your rehearsal slots! P.s. At BattleHack, you’ll get coaching from staff members on what to highlight and some key winner recommendations.

Hydration & Sustenance

You need to be drinking at least 1.5 liters of water a day and you need to eat right. At BattleHack we keep hackers hydrated and fed constantly, because it keeps those brain cells going. At your hackathon be sure to be hydrated and fed. At BattleHack, we’re reknowned for our amazing spreads – of gourmet dishes and hawker favourites, so if you’re coming by – be sure to tuck in! But don’t put your brain on sleep mode from having too much satay or beer!

Take breaks

Even your laptop’s battery pack needs a recharge now and then. Be sure to take full advantage of the amenities available at your event! At BattleHack we spoil our hackers with amazing massages and a beautiful nap room. If your hackathon doesn’t have these, try to bring some comfortable sleeping bag kits or a yoga ball, to keep you stretching.

Backup, ALWAYS.

If there is a possibility it will go wrong, assume it will – so always back up! After working for 24 hours you don’t want your hard work going to waste!

Stay positive – always

A hackathon is meant to be innovation in a friendly environment. Not everyone likes working late into the night and some people work differently under pressure. So be aware of the people around you, stay flexible, be respectful of new ideas and always be positive. Negativity slows down teams, so stay perky!

Two hours before deadline

If something can go wrong, it will and you need to prepare for this. Plan to complete at least 2 hours before submission to prevent and manage any last minute surprises.

Don’t forget the presentation

After all that work, don’t forget that you need to sell it to win it! At BattleHack, it’s all about the code, code and more codes. These are assessed on the quality of the idea, its technical execution and innovation. Presentations are also an opportunity to interact with judges during Q&A and share their tech stack, which encourages crowd learning and community.