Demystifying The Hackathon Culture At NIT Rourkela
Hackathons aren't just a place of sleep deprivation and working tirelessly. They are a breeding ground for innovation.
Unlike the name suggests, the ‘hack’ in the hackathon is used in the sense of exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning as a reference to breaching computer security. It is a portmanteau of the words ‘hack’ and ‘marathon’. The hackathon environment has led to the invention of many successful business ideas. Hackathons have helped solve pressing issues and business challenges, worldwide.
To give a glimpse of how innovation happens at hackathons, many of Facebook’s key ideas were engineered at hackathons. Hackathons have helped to be a melting pot of creativity, ideas, and skills. It offers the opportunity to meet like-minded people and mentors. For the career-hungry entrepreneur, it offers the perfect networking opportunity as scouts often attend hackathons looking for talent. This makes it easy for participants to test and validate their product.
With gaining popularity, the hackathon culture has evolved to have emerged as a global student movement in the present times. Not only do they stand out in the CV but can also contribute to giving a head start to the careers of university students. Apart from the prizes, hackathons provide the students with a great opportunity to network, explore their creativity, ignite the team spirit, self-evaluate their skills, and overcome challenges under the pressure of a highly competitive environment. There are many hackathons that offer internships and rewards to the winners and runners-up. Hackathons aren’t really about winning prizes. They’re about playing with awesome technology.
Do you know everything about Hackathons?
There are numerous reasons why Hackathons are quite popular tech-competitions, nowadays, for the youth. It is an online platform where tech-enthusiasts work rigorously on prototypes to yield the final products in a limited period of time, this time limit makes Hackathons more interesting and challenging.
Is it that Tough?
Having said that, it is not to be thought that Hackathon is for ingenious minds willing to spend hours before the screen and tapping keyboards. The common misconception is that only coders can attend. There is no restriction in participation any outsider can be a part of the competition. This openness of the competition adds more value to it. A bunch of coders working all weekend on creating a prototype will not be nearly as effective as talented individuals with different expertise. Experience with coding and development is just beneficial.
When fresh minds engage on a problem or recently released API, they collaborate to finds bugs and provide solutions. It gives a bird-eye view of where developers face challenges, what are their areas of interest, and the corresponding loopholes to be analyzed. Hackathons are way more innovative than developments done individually, providing room for new ideas.
When participants diversify, the situation guarantees multiple approaches to a single problem and creates an environment where students develop risk-taking abilities and finding a way out within a specific time limit. Hackathons create a two-way talk between the developers and users and eventually increase the quality and availability of the resources. In Hackathons, tech start-ups get a chance to sponsor, which is the easiest way to change the public's notion about the new brands and sponsorship while creating awareness about the company among the prime audience.
What's in it if you win?
Learning is fun and even rewarding at hackathons. The outcome varies depending on the event but a monetary cash prize is most commonly given to the winners. In some cases, winners of a hackathon receive a gift instead.
A General Analysis from NIT Rourkela perspective
NIT Rourkela was believed to have a dormant atmosphere of Hackathon participation and competition. To analyze the current scenario, team Monday Morning organized a survey. With an aim to depict the contemporary views of students over hackathons, a Google form containing a large variety of associated questions was circulated among the students over a set of limited online platforms to the best of possible.
Nevertheless, a general perspective was fetched from the responses received. As far as participation is concerned, about 55 percent of responses agreed to take part in hackathon(s) earlier.
The purpose of participating in hackathons varies drastically among people. The survey observed that the most number of participants were the curious ones as well as people trying to improve their arsenal with the latest tool and technologies and solving questions.
While many students participated after landing foot at the institute, the frequency of participation is scarce for the majority. However, it is good to see people cognizant about certain technicalities of Hackathons including the names of a few major websites in the field.
Organization of hackathons and similar competitions from clubs of the institute is on the rise, yet the majority feels that the current frequency in the organization as well the level of competition and participation can be improved substantially.
The introduction of HackNITR has ameliorated the situation considerably with a good number of students getting interested in participating.
NIT Rourkela, being a prominent institute, has always supported its students to hone their technical skills going beyond the walls of classrooms for producing efficient engineers. In the context of hackathons, the culture has been growing slowly and improving over the last few years. Let’s see what some successful participants at different hackathons have to say-
Chinmay Kabi, Winner of RunIO hackathon, NIT Rourkela, who has also participated in various MLH hackathons, told Monday Morning (MM):
The hackathon culture at our college hasn’t been the best but I am glad to see that the current first and second-year students are more involved in taking part in hackathons than we were during our initial years.
Vedant Raghuwanshi, the Lead organizer of HackNITR 2.0, said:
During my first year, there were very less people who used to participate or took interest in hackathons. Luckily, I met a few good seniors who encouraged me to do so and from then apart from participating myself, I've been working to improve the culture through OpenCode, DSC, NITRDevs and HackNITR, our very own flagship hackathon. It’s especially encouraging that fresher's have picked up this from the very start and we have received many applications from them and are hoping for more.
However, there exist some lacunae like lack of awareness, misconceptions about hackathons, resistance to participate, etc. that hinder this culture from blooming. It’s high time to bridge these lacunae.
Debabrata Panigrahi, a pre-final year student of Department of Biotechnology and Medical Engineering who has participated and won in hackathons like RAKATHON 2.0, GE HACK’E’LTH, MIT Covid-19 Hackathon, and George Hacks Medical Solutions 2021, states:
The participation has definitely increased over years but the awareness is still lacking. There are a variety of reasons why people think that hackathons are some ‘out of the league’ thing for them. Most of them believe that it is not for beginners. The development and opensource culture is lagging in our college and usually, the pre-final year students and sophomores don't concentrate on it a lot because they see companies recruiting on the basis of their knowledge in DSA and they just confine to that.
Abel Mathew, ex-DSC Lead and Lead Organizer of HackNITR 1.0 states:
Over the years, if I compare, I am glad to witness the improvement. A positive change has definitely occurred but there is still a long road to go. When I talk to juniors, many of them consider the fact that just because they are at NIT Rourkela, their life is sorted and they do not have to put much effort into anything. This mindset, to some extent, I feel is not right. Just because you are at NIT Rourkela, doesn’t mean that you stop improving yourself. Every opportunity that you get, you are supposed to develop yourself.
Secondly, people do not realize the importance of activities and they avoid it thinking that they are useless. Most of them feel like what good a hackathon can do. The change from one hackathon might be small but over multiple hackathons, the improvement would be phenomenal. The learnings that you will gain would be way higher than any course would ever provide. In hackathons, you see people doing the same thing and it acts as a driving force and motivates you to do great things in short time, thinking out of the box.
The Role of Clubs
With the vibrant club culture that NIT Rourkela fosters, the array of clubs under the Technical Society engages many students in several activities. Coding clubs, being one of the most sought-after clubs can greatly contribute to creating a wave of awareness about hackathons and ensuring active participation.
Chinmay Kabi says:
The clubs earlier had set a wrong precedent that only competitive coding is the way to become a developer. That perception is slowly giving way to more diverse aspects of Software Development, like web/app development, ML, blockchain, taking workshops and writing articles etc. Many of the clubs are already taking the initiative to improve this culture, but it sure has a long way to go ahead.
Abel Mathew suggested:
An intra NIT hackathon should be organised, in which either the clubs or the Halls of residence compete with each other. An intra NIT hackathon can greatly help in developing the confidence of NIT Rourkela populace as there won’t be anyone to fear about since there won’t be any competitors present from other NITs.
Astha Nayak, Hack Club Lead, shares the need for Hack Club at NIT Rourkela:
Hack Club is a global network of student programming clubs where members learn to code through having fun and building projects. Hack Club provides everything that someone needs to build a community of coding enthusiasts. It connected us to an amazing group of people who are passionate about building for the community.
Apart from that, when it comes to organising hackathons, Hack Club helped us out with sponsorship from StickerMule. The website could also be built using some components of Hack Club's Open Source Template which we indeed used for HackNITR 2.0. It also provided a great platform to advertise our projects and endeavours.
HackNITR 2.0 is a hackathon that endeavours to bring and integrate talent, innovation, and creativity under one roof to build solutions for real-world problems. The goal of organizing the HackNITR hackathon has been to grow the local community and giving hackers an unforgettable hacking experience. Organized by the DSC NIT Rourkela and Open Code club, it is considered the clubs' flagship event for the year. It has no eligibility barriers and a preferred tech stack. As long as you have the idea and the will to make it a reality, you are welcome to participate. Moreover, educational workshops from prominent tech leaders add icing to the cake.
HackNITR 2.0 is all set out to virtually happen on 19-22 March. Registrations for HackNITR 2.0 is open. Register now here!
Start hacking today!
Hackathons are more fun than geeky. A fair number of hackathons have prizes reserved for categories like first-time hackers. Building your portfolio and making your GitHub profile greener or putting your skills to the test in a competitive environment, even getting you your dream developer internship or job, hackathons can help you achieve all of that. Hackathons are a great opportunity to set a foot in the industry!