Today marked the beginning — and end — of the 2020 Cutie Hack at the University of California: Riverside. I was among one of those participants, and although I am not new to this type of event (I’ve volunteered for and participated in CodeDay multiple times), it always amazes me how tiring, rewarding, and time-consuming that it can be.
First thing’s first, let’s talk about the tiring part. Spending time hyper-focusing on anything can feel tiring, but there’s something about hackathons in general that just drain your energy. With the limited time that one has during such an event (12 hours in my case — half the time of what I’m used to), you have very little time to plan, build, test, and market your product. At the same time, going through each part of that cycle can teach you so much about each step — something that would take months, if not years, in the real world. Once you take a step back, you realize how much progress and effort can be put into something when you have such a short time to get it done.
Now that that part’s out of the way, let’s talk rewards. I wasn’t aware of the prizes for Cutie Hack prior to the event, and they are pretty damn nice — over $20,000 in prizes are planned to be given away this year. However, there’s also another thing that should also be factored into the “prize” of the hackathon — a fully-functioning and marketable product that you can show off on GitHub, and place on your resume. This is useful, especially for participants of Cutie Hack, who are mostly high-school to college freshmen, who tend to have limited experience working in the industry or experience overall.
The bottom line is that hackathons are fun — and a good way to kickstart something that you’re not 100% sure will work. And even though you might leave having to recover from way too many cans of Coca-Cola and not enough sleep, you’ll have a (sort of) shiny new product (and perhaps some other goodies) to show for it.
(If you’re interested in seeing what I came up with in the 12 hours during Cutie Hack 2020, here’s a link to CoronAdventure, my text-based adventure game that aims to highlight the difference in experiences between the rich and poor during the COVID-19 pandemic.)