What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is an event, typically lasting two or more days, where computer programmers come together and use technology to collaborate on a game-changing project.
This phenomenon, as seen in the Facebook movie The Social Network, has taken the world by storm over the past few years, showing what teamwork and creative thinking can achieve in a concentrated time frame.
Creative and technical whizzes come together to brainstorm and develop something special during an intensive coding session, filled with trial and error and often fuelled by caffeine and endorphins. The final result of the hackathon can be an innovative website, an app or even a robot.
Apparently, the Facebook “like” button and chat function were both developed at internal company hackathons.
People who have taken part in hackathons often describe the invigorating feeling of creating a viable and workable prototype from scratch – lack of sleep notwithstanding.
Technology is all well and good, says Musa Kalenga, one of the judges of the upcoming Hack4Health hackathon, but needs a clear and well-articulated purpose to be useful. This is where a hackathon comes in, bringing together technical and intellectual capacity to collaborate for a specific purpose.
“This intense, focused approach is necessary because the process of ‘hacking’ was designed to focus resources and energy intensively over a short period of time, with the aim of solving a critical problem. Over time, this has become severely watered down and hacks aren’t producing real or sustainable solutions,” he explains.
“I believe that the more we allow young people to participate in ‘hacking’ some of our most complex challenges, the more we will be forced to come up with new, more creative solutions. It’s exciting to have the support of Africa Teen Geeks to make this project a reality.”