Personal tools

How To Host A Hackathon Based on Community Needs

From University Innovation

Jump to: navigation, search



Hackathons are a great way to encourage students of all majors to work together and innovate. This wiki describes how to analyze your campus environment and create a hackathon tailored to your fit your school’s unique needs. The tips listed below describe how to seek out sponsors, find space for your event, and advertise to ensure as many students are informed as possible.

Identifying needs in the community

Hackathons can revolve around a single topic or platform. One way to begin to think of your hackathon subject is to analyze your campus or city. Does your school specialize in technology? What is your city’s main export? By starting with a familiar topic, an entry point is created for students to come and hypothesize about factors that influence their daily lives. Something to remember is not to make the topic too specific at risk of isolating potential participants.

Something to consider when planning your hackathon is the audience. Are you only including students? Outside members of the community? Both have their advantages, but if the hackathon is based around a certain tech platform taught in a university, it might be a good idea to limit it to students or else some outside participants might be unprepared.

Finally, when planning a theme, you must make sure your topic is versatile enough to challenge students and inspire a variety of ideas. For example, instead of instructing students to prototype a smart water filter, encourage them to evaluate the idea of clean water in general—not just filters, but also methods of storage, transport, etc.


Finding a space

The first step in finding an appropriate space for your hackathon is estimating the number of people you will have participating. An incentive for early preregistration will help get people committed to your event and help you plan your space needs.

The ideal space is somewhere very open with enough room to spread out between teams. Ideally, small breakout conference rooms will be nearby to give teams privacy, because it is, after all, a competition and teams will want to keep secrets. A large presentation room or banquet hall type space with widely separate tables would be ideal in lieu of many small study rooms and an open space such as found in a library.


Picking the materials will vary depending on your budget, theme, and what your goal for the hack-a-thon is. Here are some essentials:

-Laptops/desktops (Your Hack-a-thoners can bring there own if they have one) -A dependable internet source that can handle a lot of users -Food (either snacks or meals depending on your budget) -Tables, Chairs, Whiteboards -Stickynotes, Decorations (optional...), Etc...

Come up with a game plan and a materials list before hand. It would be have an estimate for how many people might could show up. Don't find yourself in a situation where you are undersupplied, or missing essential materials.  Better to have extra than not enough.</span></span></span></span> ==


Hackathons need funding, and the number one way to get funding is to acquire sponsors. Potential sponsors would most likely be local companies already in contact with the school. In many cases, the companies will reach out themselves once they catch word of an event going on. This is very good for the Hackathon host, as more local companies hear word of the event happening and want to be a part of it themselves. To secure the sponsors, however, one has to build their “brand,” or reputation, with the companies. In other words, take time and make yourself known. It can’t be expected to make one phone call and have a paying sponsor. Make sure that you can effectively “sell” your event to them and make it a worthwhile investment for them. This may take a few phone conversations and maybe an interview toward the end, but if they are interested enough to keep contact after the initial conversation, odds are in your favor of gaining a sponsor.


Event Marketing

Knowing whoto market your hackathon to is just as important as how you market. Computer science, communications, science, and business majors are all broad categories that make good foundations for targeting your promotional efforts. However, it is important to remember that innovation can occur in any department or school and you should never limit yourself to a narrow segment of your institution’s students.

To get people to pay attention, your marketing is going to need to be BIG. Human sized posters are a great attention getter when placed around campus and among students who your targeting reveals might be interested in a hackathon. Additionally, leveraging social media is vital to the success of your event; so set up a Facebook event, create a hashtag, and invite as many people to join as you can and tell them to tell their friends. Lastly, simply getting out and talking to people face to face about your hackathon is the best way to get people excited about participating and committed to the event.

Hashtag example.png

Project Follow-up

After the hackathon weekend is over, some teams might be interested in continuing to work in their venture. There are some grants available for student teams working in commercializing technologies by VentureWell, a high education nonprofit that runs the E-Team Program.


Selected applicants have the opportunity to receive early-stage support and funding of up to $25,000  for the first two stages of the program to further validate their idea as they work with faculty and mentors ( universities may have their own incubator or accelerator that student teams can apply to. Students can also obtain support from their university’s “office of technology transfer” or “office of research commercialization” to lean more about intellectual property and the commercialization roadmap and strategies.

A good idea is to ask hackathon alumni to talk about their experience going through the program in future info sessions. Student will be more motivated after hearing a success story! Alumni can also participate as mentors in future events.