What is a hackathon?

Jackson will see its first ever hackathon this August, and theCO is excited to host it. But you may be thinking—what is a hackathon?

“Hackathon” is pulled together from the words “hack” and “marathon” and typically last several days while people (in this case, developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and engineers) meet to collaborate on computer programming. This hackathon will be an entire weekend event, lasting from Friday, August 17th at 5:30pm to Sunday, August 19th to 5:30pm with the theme being “It’s Always Been Done This Way” in an effort to encourage hackers to use their ingenuity and creativity to come up with new and improved tech solutions to old problems.

Lisa Garner, Executive Director of theCO, says, “Hackathons not only exercise problem solving skills; they work out the “just do it” muscle—you know, the part of us that works hard to put something out there, to see if it can work. Lots of folks have ideas, but hackathons encourage action.”

Since lots of people have ideas, theCO decided to support hackers in creating teams to best accomplish the task they are given. By working with other people in an attempt to solve a problem, you are not only developing software but also community. Although forming a team is suggested, hackers are welcome to come solo and find teammates in the crowd or even try and win the competition individually.

Chance Smith, an Innovation Strategist at Sodium Halogen and also a three-time winner of a hackathon out of Nashville called Code for the Kingdom, says that he has hacked with teams as big as fifteen people.

“I just love the experience of being with people you don’t know . . . and then teaming up and trying to figure [their skill sets] out,” he says. “You get to be a part of teams with people who may know something you don’t know, and then you get to join in and and figure out how to do it together. I love that intensity and craziness.”

Smith says he has experienced hackathons where he was awake for fifty to sixty hours, which led to him being dubbed “The Robot.” But in the end, he says he is able to fight through the sleep deprivation by always looking for something new to learn.

“I really lean on people who come in with ideas,” Smith explains. “We struggle a lot on coming up with our own ideas and flourishing just by ourselves, and so the team environment really lends itself to be a cool project.”

You don’t have to know how to code to be on a hackathon team either; teams are always looking for designers, writers, creatives, and more. Though you do have to be at least sixteen years old to participate in theCO’s 48hr Hack, there are multiple skills that can be advantageous to a team, and anyone is welcome to try their hand at it no matter how many or how few hackathons you have been a part of.

“Community over competition is always a win,” Garner says. “Of course there is a prize for the winning team at our event, but we’ll do all we can to downplay that so that attendees can learn and help each other, no matter what team they’re on.”

So, now you may be interested, but does spending forty-eight hours hacking seem like a long time? You might think so, but it’s actually fairly quick in terms of web development. Churning out a whole website or project in two days can be a huge challenge.

“We’ve got a lot of talented folks in West Tennessee, and the potential to bring a bunch of them together for a weekend event like this makes me giddy,” Garner continues. “The forty-eight-hour timeframe is a bit of an intense commitment for some, but it’s also just one weekend, and a lot of cool tech could come out of it.”

If you’re worried about the length of the event, rest assured that theCO will be providing food, brainstorming supplies, communication methods like Slack, and most importantly couches for hackers to rest their active minds. You only need to bring a laptop and your best ideas, and you might just win $500. Be sure to sign up, form a team, and rest up for theCO’s 48hr Hack!

Learn more here.