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Hackathon Planning Timeline

6 months before

  • Create/review the mission: Our mission is to get students throughout the region connected to industry experts and other students who are passionate about changing the world through technology
  • Identify target audience: We are looking for high school participants with a broad array of interests, experiences and skills. No prior coding experience is required.
  • Create/review a draft schedule: Saturday is an opportunity to learn or hone tech skills through workshops at the “learnathon”. The rest of the hackathon is spent working in self-selected teams on solving real-world problems presented by the sponsors.
  • Secure a venue: We use an auditorium for opening program, hackathon & demo party. We use classrooms for workshops and cafeteria for meals.
  • Set a date & review potential conflicts: We run our hackathon at the end of January, so we have the least conflict with sports.
  • Create a draft budget (food, supplies, swag, background checks, tech support, etc.)
  • Create a list of potential sponsors & start recruiting: We reach out through our local tech council, Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, and through the University of Virginia. We look for sponsors to not only help underwrite the event, but to also suggest problems the students can help solve, lead workshops to teach students new tech skills, and mentor teams as they work through solving problems on the way to a final project.
  • Create a landing page with basic hackathon info
  • Ensure a code of conduct is in place

4 months before

  • Create a communications plan to get the word out (media advisories, e-mail lists, announcements, etc.)
  • Create an application & start recruiting students: We use a google form for the application and set a deadline about a month before the hackathon
  • Create a volunteer form & start recruiting mentors: We also use a google form to recruit volunteers, asking them to share availability and if they are interested in leading a workshop and/or mentoring. This year we also recruited student mentors from pool of students who had previously participated.
  • Create/review the consent & release form: This should photo/video release and how you will handle work produced during the hackathon.

2 months before

1 month before

  • Workshops and problem statements identified: With 65 participants, we offered 6 workshops in the morning and another 6 in the afternoon. We had 4 problem statements.
  • Begin accepting applications on a rolling basis: We set a participation target and then accept 10% more than that. We send acceptance e-mail to students & parents with a requirement to confirm within 1 week. Those that confirmed got a follow-up e-mail with specific instructions and logistics as well as reminder to bring a signed consent & release form to the event.
  • Order supplies, t-shirts & food: This year we did a different color t-shirt for the mentors, which participants found very helpful. For food, we provide snacks & drinks throughout the day plus lunch & dinner.

2 weeks before

  • Ensure all your venue logistics are handled: Parking, AV support, tech support, check-in tables, workshop locations, tables and chairs for hackathon, signage, badges
  • Recruit additional volunteers: You will need way finders, check in, golphers, etc.