5 Tips for Running Fun Hackathons!

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Coding is one of the most indispensable skills that a kid can have, giving tons of potential opportunities for the future. Coding has so many upsides, hence why every child should learn how to code. If you’re trying to encourage better coding skills, why not try a hackathon?

Hackathons can be a fun, educational event that you can have for 3 or 13 children. What makes hackathon fun if you’re looking to get the attention of impressionable kids learning to code? Here are 6 elements that make hackathons fun and how you can do them for your own event.


What Is A Hackathon?

If you’re still wondering how kids can benefit from coding, hackathons are a convergence of those pushing to be the best. So, what is a hackathon, anyway?

In business parlance, a hackathon is an event where computer programmers come together and develop a software or a system that resolves a specific issue. For newbies and children, hackathons are primarily events that encourage them to collaborate, work together on a code, and build software for a short amount of time.

In most situations, the format is in a competition style, where teams compete to finish the fastest or provide the best software prototype. For kids, organizers can do the same, splitting everyone into teams. Organizers can also have everyone collaborate on one system and code together, especially if there’s only a small number of participants.

Most hackathons also host a workshop to help develop skills, teach participants some specific secrets to solving common issues and connect people with seasoned mentors. For children, these workshops can be helpful to equip them with the right skills.


What Makes Hackathons Fun

Once you understand the basics of hackathons, it’s easy to see what makes them fun. Enhancing kids’ coding skills do not have to be drab, but rather inserting certain elements can make it super fun for everyone.


1. Competition

Competition is vital for hackathons, and organizers can create games, challenges, or coding puzzles. The fun of coding is when participants face challenges and work together to resolve them so that organizers can insert these games. 

Kids enjoy a good competition. Hackathon and coding for kids are beneficial when it encourages them to work together towards a common goal. As children try to “one-up” each other, they also build more character and get to try and be the best among the rest.


2. Toys to Code

Sometimes, hackathons can get boring, especially if participants are coding for long hours. Some organizers also find that bringing toys or fun things into a hackathon can help people stay focused. 

For coding for kids, organizers can set up coding competitions, where kids can bring their favorite toy and code it. For younger children, toys are a great distraction so that organizers can incorporate toys into coding for kids.  

If it’s something informal, you can have the kids bring their system of choice to show off, which can help them be more imaginative and more creative. Organizers can encourage the use of Legos, Arduino’s, and other toys that can promote coding.


3. Game Jams

Game Jams are a newer type of hackathon and can fit more for kids. Game Jams are fun events where participants can build games, whether serious or simple. For children, organizers can set up a game jam, where participants build games from scratch then bring them to the event. 

Organizers can start the game jam for hackathons from a simple concept, like “build a game where the character can jump.” The fun of game development is that participants can develop their ideas, so organizers can encourage them to come up with their own games.  

This is fantastic because the games industry is fun and enjoyable, especially for kids. Game development, game design, and many other jobs related to the industry all require coding, encouraging kids to learn the craft.


4. Snacks and Treats

Organizers can host snacks where coders bring their favorite snacks and vote on their favorites. This can be a fun element, especially if there are prizes for the best snacks.  

If you’re encouraging healthy eating, this might not be the best option. Indeed, hackathons are all about having fun, but these snacks can be healthy or unhealthy snacks, so organizers should prepare accordingly. 

It’s best to prepare treats that are easy to eat, easy on the stomach, and relatively healthy too. Some sweets here and there can be a fantastic way to keep young programmers engaged through the event.


5. Mentors

Hackathons usually feature mentors that the participants can ask for help. What’s great about this is that mentors can help a child or a participant with coding, troubleshooting, and other issues that the participants face.   

Mentors are usually experienced, so participants can trust them, using them as resources to build their coding skills. The best thing about mentors is that they can highlight the positives and negatives of certain codes. 

Mentors can also be excellent resources for troubleshooting, as the mentors may have encountered such issues in the past. Have well-versed mentors in different areas, including programming, debugging, and system design.


6. Ending With Prizes 

Prizes are great, and they can be a great way to end a hackathon. Prizes are fun, giving participants something fun to look forward to. Organizers can even give out prizes for the snacks that participants bring. 

If the hackathon is more of a friendly event, a simple party with everyone should be more than enough to make the event more memorable. This can also work as a free time for everyone to talk to each other, connect with other kids, and more.

Aside from prizes, organizers can end the hackathon with fun activities like meeting other like-minded people. Kids can also meet other kids, build friendships, and network with other programmers.

Final Thoughts

Hackathons are fun events, and they can be an excellent way for kids to code, connect with their peers and network. The fun of hackathons is that they’re casual, have many activities, and help kids build valuable coding skills. 

Kids that learn to code can better navigate the digital world, become coders themselves, and get more job opportunities. If you’re looking to start your hackathon, check out our list above to see how you can make your event more fun and engaging for everyone.

Dmitry Litvinov
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