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We cannot wait for you to virtually attend Uncommon Hacks April 2-4. We hope you make friends, learn, meme out, but most importantly, have fun ᖍ(ツ)ᖌ.

Before the Hackathon

What do I need to participate this year?

  • Computer
    • Because Uncommon Hacks is virtual this year, you will need an internet-enabled device to participate
  • Video Camera and Microphone
    • These items are not required, but they will help you connect with other hackers and interact with speakers during workshops
  • VPN
    • Both Discord and Twitch require a VPN if accessed from certain regions such as China.
  • Software
    • Discord
      • Discord can be accessed in a web browser, but the desktop or mobile application is recommended
  • Websites

Additional Comments

If at all possible, try to arrange your schoolwork and schedule so you won’t have to be worrying about homework over the weekend. You’ll be able to get the most out of the event, and hopefully will be re-energized by taking a break from your schoolwork!

A week or so before Uncommon Hacks, you’ll get an invite to the Discord server for the event. Discord is a voice and messaging app that will be the primary communication platform for the event. You will use Discord to collaborate with other hackers, join workshops and social activities, see announcements, and get help from mentors and the Uncommon Hacks team. Instructions on creating a free account (no payment required!) and downloading the app will be sent with the invitation to the event's server.

Additionally, we will live stream large events such as the opening and closing ceremonies on Twitch to make sure everyone has the opportunity to watch.

Tentative Schedule

See for the latest info. All times are in UTC-05:00, Chicago time!



Friday’s workshops will be more focused on introducing base concepts across the different fields where you might want to develop your project, while Saturday’s workshops will dive more deeply into using specific technologies. Also, be ready for fun surprise mini-events happening throughout the event ;)


  • 8:00 AM - morning meditation
  • 9:00 AM - yoga!
  • 11:00 AM – pitching workshop
  • 11:30 AM – hacker peer feedback session
  • 2:00 PM – hacking ends
  • 2:30 PM – sponsor booths
  • 4:30 PM – closing ceremony + awards

At the Event

Staying Cool

In a hackathon environment, surrounded by people who hack away, seemingly intensely focused, it is easy to feel intimidated. If it is your first time at a hackathon, or your 100th time at a hackathon, you may feel that everyone around you is more talented than you. That’s not the environment we want to sustain. Chances are, the person next to you may have had the same problem you had a week ago! Know that hackathons are learning experiences for all.



If ever at any point you should feel unsafe at the event, PLEASE contact a team member through Discord, email, or contact the MLH representative. We will handle the situation accordingly.

Getting Settled

Joining the Discord server will serve as your check-in for the event. Before opening ceremonies and hacking begins on Saturday, you can chat casually with other hackers, meet sponsors, participate in activities to find a team, or just hang out.

We have a number of sponsors who provide support for this event. You'll be able to join their Discord channels to talk with them about what they do. Sponsors often come to recruit for jobs and internships, let you know about their products for developers, and might sponsor a prize or two.

Forming a Team

Many people choose to work with teams at hackathons. Some people may already have a team going into the event: from school, from being meme friends online, etc. But do not worry if you do not have a team at the event! We will have a team formation activity at the event for you to find others to work with who have the same technological interests or same meme interests as you.

More importantly, have no fear if you think you’re not good enough to work on a team. There is always something for everyone to do on a hackathon team, whether it be design, the front-end work, the back-end work, connecting the circuits for the hardware device. Just make it known that you are willing to work and to learn, and you should be great.

It’s also totally fine to work on a project by yourself.

Deciding on an idea

When you have a team, start thinking about what you might want to build. You can build basically anything you want, with the main rule being you have to build it entirely during Uncommon Hacks. We’ll have several themed prizes, such as “Most Uncommon” (see the Devpost site for the full list), which you might use as inspiration for your project. You also can look at last year's submissions for some examples of what kinds of projects people have worked on.

It can be hard to decide on an idea, especially if you’re working with teammates you’ve just met. Have fun brainstorming, and you can approach finding an idea from either the perspective of what you are interested in, or what technologies you are interested in learning.

Don’t feel like your project has to be the next big thing or something you’d use every day. We encourage you to make something creative and fun and possibly totally useless! What is important is that you have a good time building it and learn in the process.

Opening Ceremonies

Once you’ve had some time to get settled, we’ll officially start the event with the opening ceremonies. Some of our sponsors will give a short presentation about what they do. You’ll also hear from our partner Major League Hacking, which helps organize over 200 student hackathons each year and provides organizational support. We’ll also go over the basic rules for the event, and provide an overview of the next 24 hours!

Working on your Project

After opening ceremonies, it’ll be time to jump in and get working! You’ll have 24 hours to make your project.

Starting your Project

Once you’ve settled on an idea and are ready to dive in, one of the first barriers you might run into is setting up your environment and doing all the yak-shaving necessary to start writing code. This can seem difficult, and it can be tricky to get everyone on your team on the same page, but it’s important to do these first steps. Check out the Additional Resources section for some getting started guides for different environments.

When you have a free moment, it’s also wise to draft your submission to Devpost, which is the site we use to track submissions. Everyone on your team should make an account, and you can add multiple people to a project. Most other hackathons also use Devpost for submissions, so you’ll be able to build a portfolio with the projects you make!

Asking for Help

There’ll be a point where you get stuck on something when working on your project, whether it be a technical roadblock, a decision you don’t have enough information to make, or a question about best practices. We will have a few mentors during the event who will be around to answer any technical questions, and there are also are probably other hackers who might be familiar with what you are working with. Just send a message to the technical_help channel on Discord, and someone should get back to you!

If you have a question about the event for the Uncommon Hacks team (such as a scheduling question, a rule clarification, etc.), send a message to the questions channel. There’s a good chance someone else has the same question, and this lets anyone on our team respond. You can also message any of the team members directly on Discord if necessary.

Additional Events

At Uncommon Hacks, we’ll have numerous fun events, such as technical workshops given by students and professionals, Bob Ross painting, sunrise yoga, and much more. These workshops are meant to be fun learning experiences that serve as a break from your project.

We want the other events to be a surprise… so you will not find out until the day of ;).


We have scheduled breaks during meal times for folks in Chicago, but you can grab grub at any time during the event.


Hackathons have a reputation for uninterrupted work with little sleep, but it’s important that you have the energy for the entire event and don’t burn out. You should take some time to get a decent night’s sleep.

Finishing your Project

When you’re almost done with your project, make sure to finalize your submission on Devpost and click submit before the deadline (2 pm on Sunday)! Devpost will be the way we look and submit projects, so it is key that you register for a team otherwise your project will not be judged. You can select which of the theme and sponsor prizes you want your project to be reviewed for.

When time is up, you must stop hacking. However, you’re allowed to debug and make small fixes to their programs if necessary. For example, if you are demoing your hack, and you find a bug that breaks your application, and the fix is only a few lines of code, it's fine to fix that.

Demos and Presentations

The Expo

After hacking has ended, we will assign teams to virtual rooms for a science-fair style expo. We’ll use the Devpost submissions to assign each group to a room and announce the assignments when they are determined. Your team will be given a room number, and there will be some time for judges and other participants to move between rooms to see your projects. Even if your project isn’t fully working or you didn’t finish it, you should still present! People like hearing about what you tried to do, what challenges you faced, what technology you used, and what you learned.

We will have a number of judges who will be going around and asking about your projects. They will be using a judging system called Gavel (which was built by the HackMIT team) to rank the projects. Using fancy math, Gravel aggregates all the judges’ responses and determines a ranking, which is used to determine the top projects. Themed prizes will be judged separately, and sponsor prizes will be judged by the sponsors, respectively.

Final Presentations and Awards

After the expo, we'll have some of the top projects present. Then, we will give out awards. Following some closing remarks, the event will finish!

Additional Resources

About Hackathons

Technical Resources

Once you have an idea for a project, you’re going to figure out how to build it. Of course, Google is one of the best ways to figure out how to build your project. For example, if you would like to build a website, you can google “How to Build a Website” or “HTML/CSS/Javascript.” Some great tutorials for beginning new topics are CodeAcademy, Tutorials Point if you know exactly what language you’re using, or Treehouse if you like learning with videos. MDN is a fantastic resource for web development and browser extensions. There are also many MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) online. Once you know what stack you will be using, you can dive in by researching tutorials online for what you’re building online. Ensure that you are dividing up the work evenly within your team. Our advice is to take it step by step - write one piece of code, see if it works, then build on the next part. Debugging is annoying, so tread carefully!

About This Guide

This guide was originally written by Ben Weinshel and Juliette Hainline here, and adapted by Samantha Chen and Thomas Propson.

This is a living document. Please email with any comments or suggestions, or file an issue or pull request on this repository. If you’re organizing a hackathon, feel free to fork this repository and adapt this document for your needs!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


A guide to Uncommon Hacks, written especially for first-time hackers







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