Page 11 - Campus Technology, January/February 2020
P. 11

If you can get a room with power and Ethernet for a weekend, you’re well on your way to doing a hackathon.
perspective and support and involvement makes it a much better experience and much more memorable. And it gives them a leadership opportunity that they probably wouldn’t get anywhere else in putting on a large-scale event.”
3) Organize food, prizes and free stuff.
Free food is a draw for a lot of students, but it’s also a democratizing factor, Gottfried pointed out. “The reason that we highly recommend the meals be free is to lower the barrier of entry for students. We don’t want finances to be a barrier for people, and really, we don’t even want people thinking twice about [going to the event]. It should be something that’s a no brainer for them to participate in.” In addition, snacks and drinks make it easier for students to work for long periods of time, hackathon-style.
Prizes make participants feel rewarded and recognized for doing good work. “It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to be expensive,” Gottfried said. “I would recommend starting with something that’s simple and usable — maybe an electronics kit or a cool gadget that you can get for $30 to $50 per person.”
And don’t forget the free stuff. For students, Gottfried asserted, one of the most important things they get out of a hackathon is swag. “For a lot of these students, being a hacker and going to hackathons and creating technology is a core part of their identity. So having a sticker to put on their laptop or water bottle, or having a t-shirt to wear around campus, is part of identifying with this
culture. And so it’s actually really important from a bonding and experience standpoint.”
4) Market your event.
A website, even a simple one, is essential to publicize your event. “We’ve seen hackathons run purely off a Facebook event, or an Eventbrite page, or any number of other simple event hosting platforms,” Gottfried said. “You really don’t need to create something custom, though if you have the capabilities, it might make it feel a little friendlier.”
With that in place, it’s time for some “basic on-the-ground marketing,” he added. E-mail student groups, put flyers around campus, share the event on social media, etc. Make a point to speak about it in classrooms — especially non- computer science classrooms. “There are a lot of students in other disciplines who are interested in technology,” he said.
And for an extra bump, work with professors to offer extra credit for participating in the hackathon, Gottfried suggested. “What we often find is, people are skeptical of going to their first hackathon because it’s kind of a big undertaking. But once they get there, it totally changes their perspective and they get hooked. So sometimes you need to give them enough of an incentive to try it for the first time.”
Ultimately, you should aim to sign up about two times as many registrants as you want attendees. “Any free event has attrition: We usually look at 40 to 60 percent. So definitely try and go above and beyond there.”

   9   10   11   12   13