This past semester, I got accepted as a tech organizer for Freetail Hackers. By joining them, I've been able to have the wonderful opportunity to partner with many other students at UT with the vision of making hackathons smoothly run and amazing. I have to say that I really loved being in the org. The community within Freetail Hackers is really amazing, not only because of the miscellaneous Assassins game we hold or the various number of memes that get shared but also because of all the amazing leaders and skilled organizers I get to meet and work within the org.
In fact, after joining, we spent this past month organizing and preparing for our Spring hackathon in order to ramp up outdated logistical technology, give students a taste of creative, innovative hacking before the Fall, and go through a trial-run hackathon.
There were so many things that organizers had to do in preparation for a single hackathon that I never considered. We have over five teams in Freetail Hackers, and the tech team alone that I'm part of had many issues that we had to tackle. For us, we had to work on a API-directory that hackers can go to view API information, provide a template to display projects after they're completed, refactor colors and design branding to our hackathon theme was up to date, regulate a behind-the-scenes judging system that would be clear to judges and properly create a .csv/excel file, and spend time figuring out cool names to spice up the meaning of our projects (‘P-API-prika’ was my suggestion for the api-directory).
Outside of our team, there are so many other decisions that had to be carried out. Whether it's figuring out how registration and acceptances work, going through 5+ designs and countless iteration-based changes for a single t-shirt, filling up the hackathon website with clear FAQs and schedule, providing an innovative project/feature to show off in a workshop, and many other logistical factors that don't get seen at the hackathon.
This Saturday, we got to showcase our hackathon, Music Hacks, something that brought stress yet joy for the past month. Since music is a part of almost everyone's lives, we wanted a hackathon that would allow people to attempt to create projects that revolved around music; either making amazing visuals using p5.js or create an app that uses the Spotify/clyp API. We were fortunate to have exactly 100 hackers from the UT campus join us for 12 hours in order to work on crazy ideas.
Before the hackathon started, we set up the area with extension cords, multi-plug outlets, and piles upon piles of snacks and drinks. As the hackers started pulling in, even though I was stressed because I accidently crashed the API website for Freetail (which we later got back up after a few minutes), I felt so happy to be able to witness the stream of hackers come into the venue we held. It was nostalgic seeing fellow hackers registering at the front desk, setting up their computers, gathering a few scoopfuls of snacks, and starting to design and hack away at the projects at round tables with hard-set determination.
Being able to be on the other side of a hackathon as an organizer has really brought a new and greater perspective for me to how hackathons work and the impact we can bring to creativity and innovation for programmers. Seeing all the independent parts everyone worked on in different teams in Freetail Hackers merge at the hackathon was really rewarding, especially with how well the hackathon played out, and I'm looking forward to working on even bigger projects and ideas in preparation for the Fall hackathon of HackTX!