WWCode Career Nav #18: Creating the Hackathon for Social Good
Stephanie Rideout, Leadership Fellow for the Python Track at Women Who Code, talks about the Women Who Code Hackathon for Social Good 2022. She explains how the idea came to life and highlights some of her favorite things about the event.
I joined as a member of Women Who Code in 2019. I stayed in the background for the most part during our live events. I started volunteering for the Women Who Code Python track in March of 2020, three days after we went into COVID lockdown in the United States. Women Who Code became a very important part of my life during this time. I made a lot of really amazing friends. This is a really amazing community. I am so proud to be a part of it.
Initially, I volunteered for the Python track by designing event graphics. Later, I started organizing event series such as the Beginner Python Study Group. In 2021, the next cohort of Leadership Fellows was announced, and the current Fellow, Archana, encouraged me to apply. Serving as a Leadership Fellow over the past year has been a really amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.
The Women Who Code Hackathon for Social Good 2022 was designed to offer the community an amazing and engaging learning experience while we use our technical superpowers to develop projects that promote social good. The Hackathon was an opportunity for members to create and build something that impacts society. Members were challenged to use their creativity to design a technical solution to meet a societal challenge of their choice. We envision the Hackathon as a collaborative community learning experience, where participants are actively learning together and helping each other, whether they're working on the same project, solo, or on different teams.
When I started as a Leadership Fellow in August 2021, one of our initial activities was to brainstorm future technical track events and programs. I suggested that code challenges and hackathons would be valuable to the community as an opportunity for members to develop exciting projects and enhance their coding and teamwork skills. A week or so later, when we brainstormed with the Python volunteer team, Anjali Menon, Leadership Fellow for the Blockchain track, suggested a hackathon for social good.
The volunteers expressed a lot of interest in hosting a hackathon for social good, so Anjali Menon, Zarreen Reza, the Leadership Fellow for the Data Science track, and I decided to host the hackathon as a three-track collaboration. When designing the Hackathon for Social Good, we wanted to foster a culture of collaboration among our participants. This was something that we promoted basically across our global Women Who Code community, as well as our track communities. Anyone was welcome to participate and have this be an amazing learning experience.
A lot of organization happened behind the scenes to create the hackathon. Everything from planning live events, determining participation guidelines and submission requirements, providing opportunities for participants to find and join teams, providing resources to help participants develop their projects, finding and activating mentors and judges, developing a judging rubric, notifying participants and finalists with updates, and coordinating prizes as well as partner participation. We had an amazing partner, Shutterstock, help us with the Hackathon.
We planned several live events, including the opening ceremony, a mentorship session, and a project demo day. The top three teams had the opportunity to present their projects at the Block Data Pi Summit 2022. My favorite event was the project demo day, when the six finalists shared their work with the community. That was a lot of fun. It was an amazing event. At the Hackathon, I really enjoyed seeing teams form, with their team members joining from various places around the world. One team named themselves Multicultural Marvels to celebrate the diversity of the group. I love how for their initial demo video, they came together virtually to record that, and I thought that was just so amazing.
All our members learned so much from experience, working together in teams or alone. It was amazing to see the teams working together to fulfill their project mission and solve complex challenges while building awesome friendships. For many of our participants, this was their first hackathon experience. One example is Jacqueline Brothers. It was her first hackathon, and she worked solo. All the judges loved her project, and I was inspired by the work she completed in a very short amount of time. I hope the Hackathon inspires the community to continue to use their technical superpowers to develop projects that promote social good and make a difference in their local and global communities.