Learn from my hackathon mistakes

Did it go well? Um… Did I learn a lot? You bet.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

This past weekend, I participated in an artificial intelligence (AI) hackathon, which was a part of The Knowledge Society (TKS). TKS is a program for teens, which trains them to impact billions using emerging technology.

Saturday morning, I was excited for the hackathon, submissions being due that evening at 7:00.

By 7:00, I was stressed and frustrated. How did this change occur?

First of all, I want to say that my team members were all amazing. I highly respect all of them, and the circumstances weren’t any one individual’s fault. It was more a combination of inter-team difficulties (which I myself could have done more to avoid).

So how did things go wrong?

Team communication was the main issue, from my point of view. Problems resulting from that were:

· Time management

· Setting Expectations

· Prioritizing

Looking back, the first thing the team should have done is set a plan for how we would use our time. We had enough time, with over a week to prepare. However, we never made a plan for when we would do what.

On Saturday we didn’t plan out our schedule, and we spent more time than we should have given the amount left on the slides, without planning a set amount of time for the video to go with the slides.

The result of this was that we finished the slides only about fifteen minutes before they were due, with the video not filmed yet.

This goes in hand with the time management, but in hindsight we should have set expectations for when we would have what done by. Because we didn’t set expectations, we had to finish a lot of the components on Saturday.

My biggest mistake? Not prioritizing. The required material was a video and a slide deck, and then for extra we could write an article, make a prototype, and create a one-pager. Saturday morning, the article and one-pager were already mostly done, but the slides hadn’t been started.

Therefore, when on Saturday we didn’t have time to finish the video, we couldn’t go ahead and submit because it was required. If it had been an optional material which wasn’t ready, we could have gone ahead and submit the entry.

Three key takeaways from my experience:

· Have a clear schedule for when to do what

· Be clear with your team from the beginning what the plan is

· Do the required tasks first, then the optional

Overall, even though things didn’t go as planned, I learned a lot from this experience and I got to meet some really cool people!

Teen lover of biotech, reading, and dogs. Innovator at TKS.