What in Tarnation is a Hackathon?

The other day I was asked “What in tarnation is a hackathon?” When you first hear the term ‘hackathon’ and how it’s used in a discussion along with ‘fun’, ‘opportunity’, ‘great networking experience’, one’s mind does start to wonder.

The word HACK as in ‘hack into’ or ‘hacking’, invokes visions of breaking into a computer system and accessing private data, the theft of funds or to wreak havoc on the innocent by shutting down power grids as seen in one or two or all of the Die Hard movies. Then add ‘A’ and ‘thon’ to the word and it just sounds like an event where one can wreak havoc on the world with a large group of people in a short period of time and have a great time doing it.

According to Wikipedia — A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject-matter-experts, collaborate intensively on software projects.[1]

The goal of a hackathon is to create usable software or hardware with the goal of creating a functioning product by the end of the event.[2] Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used, the operating system, an application, an API, or the subject and the demographic group of the programmers. In other cases, there is no restriction on the type of software being created.

Hackathons are a constructive way to learn in a positive environment, meet new friends and business contacts while building new products/developments. They can last a few hours or a few days; collaboration at its best in a fun environment.

Hackathons originally started as events for programmers but have expanded to include hackathons for causes, for a specific product, a specific demographic, a unique industry, etc. Participants and mentors can include entrepreneurs, programmers, business analysts, marketing professionals, lawyers, graphic designers, etc. The goal — to build a working prototype to solve specific world/industry problems.

Hackathon Benefits:

— Try out your startup ideas

— Opportunity to pitch your business idea to the public and judges

— Opportunity to find development team for your project

— Get to work on new ideas in a collaborative environment

— Stimulate creativity

— Learn and or improve problem solving skills

— Make positive career connections

— Participate in project collaboration

— Find a mentor or become a mentor

— Make new friends — develop relationships

— Learn about the latest news/technologies


One demographic specific organization in particular, is CryptoChicks, a non-profit blockchain technology educational hub with a mission to grow the professional and leadership potential of women in blockchain technology through education, collaboration and mentorship.

CryptoChicks have run a variety of successful hackathons featuring a medley of incredible projects including one from Lisa Meecham, Gungeet Kaur, Njeri Rionge from the team EnviroChix with the Refuse as Resource Project — the Potential of Plastic in a Circular Economy Based Blockchain. The goal of the project is to apply the system principles of blockchain and monetization potential of cryptocurrency to onboard and incentivize citizens in the developing world, who would participate in a value-chain model of refuse as resource to be recovered, re-used, and re-integrated to achieve a circular economy.

Another great example is the project put forward by Rachel O’Neill, Natalie Chin and Sally Yip from the Northern Lights team. Their project Reg-A-Star, is a civil registration tool, intended to provide biometric birth registration services to areas where access is limited or non-existent. By having everyone’s birth registered, the goal is to prevent human rights abuses such as child marriage and under age conscription into the military because the system will be able to provide the true age of the children. In the future, the system could be scaled to capture other metrics such as medical records or government benefits.

A highlight of past events was a remote project from Zimbabwe hacker Fadzai Mandinika: Farmer Meet Market

Farmer Meet Market is an application that improves transparency for farmers when supplying orders. The idea is to have an open and reliable market for the farmer as they can have guarantees about the availability of funds from the clients to meet the order. Liquidity is a major obstacle for many small and aspiring farmers. In Zimbabwe’s current economy, farmers often run into losses as they wait for payment. Blockchain technology’s transparency will allow for reliable confirmations on the availability of funds in escrow accounts. The app brings together clients and farmers in a mutually beneficial way that requires no trust due to the deposits of stakes when taking part in orders. This way, orders can be made faster as there is no need for business profile checks, referee checking etc.

Sponsor teams included the RBC team with the project: WeCare — business solutions to efficiently find trusted care services for family needs (i.e. Elder Care, Home Care assistance, etc), Deloitte team with the project: CanaBlock — Blockchain technology solution to provide traceability on the cannabis supply chain for the purpose of public health and safety.

Even voting for the winning hackathon projects was done with blockchain technology supplied by Polys, a secure and transparent online voting system, built on blockchain technology based for top-level safety and voting process decentralization.

CryptoChicks is currently collaborating with Women 4 Blockchain (W4B), a group dedicated to building and empowering pioneers in the world of blockchain technology, on a hackathon set to take place in New York City, October, 2018.

October 5–8, 2018 — CryptoChicks Hackathon + Conference in partnership with Women4Blockchain.com

CryptoChicks is inviting all women to use this unique opportunity to learn blockchain technology in-depth and then implement it in a project of the participants choice. Sponsor BlockGeeks.com will provide all female participants with free online blockchain education.

CryptoChicks and Women4Blockchain will be running educational workshops in parallel with the hackathon followed by the conference.

Registration and tickets: https://cryptochickshackathon.com

Location: New York University, New York.

Hackathons are happening all the time and are great events to get involved with as a participant, a mentor or as a sponsor.

Hackathon info Toronto/Hamilton/Kitchener:




For those wondering what in tarnation, tarnation means — here’s the explanation from Wictionary.org

This New Englandism has fallen out of use in New England, but is remembered for its colorfulness and is still used in the Southeastern United States as a minced oath, where ‘hell’ or ‘damn’ would otherwise be said, especially in the phrase “what in tarnation”.

Audrey Nesbitt

SpinSpirational Marketing & PR

Audrey Nesbitt on Linkedin

@AudreyNesbitt11 on Twitter

Marketing Professional, Mentor, Speaker and Co-host of the TIF Women in Emerg-Tech: Power Lunch Series

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store