DistanceHacks: A Socially-Distanced, Online Hackathon

At the beginning of quarantine, LibreHacks was faced with the difficult task of continuing operations as normal as possible, as the world around us turned upside down. After hours of brainstorming, we decided to try our hands at an online hackathon. We had all planned hackathons in the past, however adjustments needed to be made to accommodate for our online setting. At previous in-person hackathons, it was easy to assemble a team, since everyone was in one time-zone and usually spoke the same language. For our online setting, we used zoom calls, and google meets to have ice breakers and play games with each other, leading to a natural bonding of participants. 

However, there were some benefits to an online setting. For starters, we weren’t limited to a physical location/region, allowing us to include people from all over the world. It also allowed teams to plan their own schedules, depending on their specific needs. In addition to the benefits for hackers, as organizers, it was relaxing to not have to worry about booking a physical venue, catering food, or organize travel arrangements for our mentors. 

Planning an online hackathon was a unique experience and one that we learned a lot from. In the future, we would definitely want to push the event back a little to give ourselves more time to organize the event and find sponsors. As well as that, it would give participants more time to sign up. We also plan to add many more meetings or lectures around the basics of programming for our coders that have never participated in hackathons before.