10 Hackathons for Practicing Coding

By Nikhil Abraham

Hackathons can be good practice if you want a job in coding. They are usually one-day or weekend events that bring together technical and nontechnical people so they can create an application for a specific platform, programming language, or problem. For example, the Netflix Hack Day is a one-day event to design an interesting feature or solve a problem for users on the Netflix video-streaming service.

Last year, one of the most interesting Netflix hackathon apps used data from the Fitbit activity tracker to detect when the viewer had fallen asleep, and then paused any videos the user was playing on Netflix. Some hackathons are community organized; others are sponsored and organized by schools or corporations. The cost of attending a hackathon ranges from free to a few hundred dollars to cover food, event space rental, and other expenses.

Hackathons are primarily designed for you to meet other coders and people interested in creating technology products. Through a hackathon event, you may meet a teammate for a future project, a mentor who can help guide your career, or a friend to chat with about the latest technology trends. Many hackathons also have a competitive element, where judges select the top apps and award their creators cash and other prizes.

Here are ten well-known hackathons that you might consider participating in:

  • Startup Weekend: Participants brainstorm to generate ideas, and then divide into teams to work on and validate each idea. Although not required, many teams will build some type of prototype to test their idea. The event has taken place in 400 cities, and counts over 100,000 participants.

  • AngelHack: In addition to hosting 100 hackathons a year in 96 cities across 65 countries, AngelHack also has an accelerator to help weekend hackathon projects become fundable startups.

  • SXSW Music Hackathon: SXSW is one of the largest music and film conferences in the world. The SXSW music hackathon gives teams 24 hours to build a prototype using music-tech APIs, and compete for a $10,000 prize.

  • Launch: This company supports entrepreneurs with a video blog, a curated email newsletter, an incubator, and a San Francisco-based hackathon. Over 1,000 developers compete for $100,000 in investment funding and $5,000 in prizes from sponsors.

  • TechCrunch Disrupt: Held in San Francisco, New York, and London, these hackathons are organized by the popular technology blog TechCrunch. In addition to competing for $20,000 in prizes, winning participants are also featured in TechCrunch, which reaches 6.5 million readers.

  • PennApps: Hosted semi-annually by the University of Pennsylvania, PennApps has 1,000 students from 100 schools competing for $30,000 in prizes. PennApps does not charge a fee and even covers travel expenses.

  • HackMIT: Open to undergraduates from any university, HackMIT, held at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, draws 1,000 students who compete for $10,000 in prizes.

  • MHacks: Another student run semi-annual competition, MHack is held at the University of Michigan and has had as many 1,200 student participants.

  • Facebook Hackathon: Hackathons are a Facebook tradition that has led to the creation of many popular features. To continue the tradition, Facebook holds hackathons in cities around the world for others to build using the Facebook platform.

  • Startup Bus: Buses depart from various cities, and participants code for 72 hours on the bus and launch a product when the ride is over. Initially in the U.S., all buses traveled to the SXSW festival in Austin. In 2015, the buses will travel to Nashville. Bus events are also held in Europe and Asia.