What is it about hackathons that makes them so popular? Why would you spend 24-48 hours of your weekend with no sleep, living off of weak caffeine, staying inside when you could be doing active outdoorsy things, catch up on sleep, or study?

To work on an idea.

Hackathons are where your crazy idea becomes reality - Alex Kern, Hacker

Sometimes when you're walking around, you may randomly think of cool ideas of products you wish you had to improve your daily life. Unfortunately during the weekdays, if you have a busy schedule, you'll usually be unable to sit down and work with it. At hackathons though, you get a chance to flesh out these ideas and attempt to build a finished product from them. And the extraordinary thing is that these ideas can become fully-fledged startups or million-dollar products, all because of a 24-hour hackathon.

To learn.

24 hours is a lot of time to try out one of the many CS fields you find interesting (web dev, big data, game dev, AI, hardware, etc..). There are many tools you can work with (video tutorials, set-up tutorials, etc...), and especially with student and company mentors there, getting a base coding environment should be a breeze (if you ask for help), allowing you to fully engage in the new software/hardware you decide you want to learn. 

Because it's free.

FREE FREE FREE! Well depends whether it's hosted by a university (free) or a corporate organization (costs some $$$), and where it's located. If it's within your state, there are usually buses to transport you. If it's out of state, it may be a little bit harder, but some places may provide generous travel reimbursements that allow you to attend these hackathons for free (paid to play)!

Free food.

Not only do you get free admission, but there's food... like lots of food... and it's all free! Coffee, sodas, protein bars, chips, sugary snacks, as well as filling meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are provided to help keep you going through the night. Healthy, vegeterian, and gluten-free options are provided also! There's so much free food, that you won't go hungry. And if you do... then it probably isn't a hackathon. (jk but seriously, you need those calories for hacking)

To get an interview

Companies go to hackathons. In fact, companies are one of the main reasons why hackathons happen. They help sponsor hackathons so that all the things you get to experience there are free. Thank them by creating an awesome hack to present to them. If you're looking for an internship or full-time position, you can talk to them, give your resume, and if you build a really cool hack that wins a prize (whether with their software or not), they might give you an interview with them which leads to a job!

To win prizes.

You can win big. If you're adventurous and competitive enough, you can go for the many prizes that hackathons have. Companies there have prizes based off of categories you submit into. Whether it's using a company API most effectively, create something that exploits common security flaws, or build the most innovative virtual reality game, there are many venues you can choose to tackle to potentially win cool prizes. Examples of prizes that can be won include pebble watches, swag bags, $250 dollar Amazon gift cards, quadcopters, virtual reality developer sets, and many other assorted prizes.

After 24-48 hours of hacking, hacks are usually submitted and an expo happens shortly after so judges and other peoples of interest can go around and check out the crazy hacks people make. After the expo, during the closing ceremony, the top 10 placers present their hacks, and the final judging occurs. When the winners are decided, prizes are awarded, and sponsors/organizers get a picture with the winners and their prizes.

To get swag.

Companies give out a lot of cool goodies that you can wear or use in your daily life. Just an idea of what you could reap at a hackathon, in one of my previous hackathons, I got 11+ shirts, 50+ laptop stickers, a hoodie pillow, sleeping kits, frisbees, puzzle kits, socks, water bottles, 3 rubber duckies, assorted drawstring bags, and lots of coffee cereal. Go and get all the swag you can!

And most of all,

To have fun.

There so much fun you can get out of hackathons. They're one of the best times to hang out with friends (like a caffeinated sleepover). Additionally, there are many events you can attend, like cup stacking or CTF challenges, that leave your heart racing or brain puzzled. Furthermore, you get to meet new people who you would never meet under normal circumstances in your daily school life (Shoutout to Shane, Nick, Manav, and many more). Most of all, you get to witness your potential in what you can (and can't) create in 24 hours, create a hack that you can show off to others (whether you win or not) and find what you're passionate about in CS (something everyone aspires to find).

So now that you know the craze about hackahtons, sign up, go to one, and experience all the things listed above! Happy hacking!

Hi guys. Thanks for checking in and reading my first blog post! Just a rundown of what you'll see me post, I hope to share with you guys ongoing topics I find important in CS, whether about the recruiting season, ongoing CS events, or my daily life as a programmer. I hope that you can be entertained, more knowledgeable, or inspired when you read this, and it could help you in your pursuit as a current or aspiring CS major. I really appreciate the time you guys took to read this, and I hope to see you guys next week!  Code on and Peace out!

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of UT Computer Science, The University of Texas or any employee thereof.