No idea has swept the nation’s tech scene quicker than hackathons. It’s sexy: the notion that you can make amazing products by pushing code, pushing pixels, and pushing your teammates to complete a project in 36 hours. Movements move fast. And sometimes it’s hard enough just to keep up.

As the community continues to grow, university (and high school) students are scrambling to rouse their hacker populations and garner administrative support in hopes of one day planning the big one. A university hackathon marks their place on the hacker map as a leader, and who would want to miss out on that?

That said, we should all be looking at how we can embrace productive differentiation.

Hackathons should not be confined to what others have done in the past.

Planning a hackathon is like using Boilerplate. Established events over the past couple years give new planners a framework to build on top of. The incredible success of PennApps, hackNY, and MHacks has brought out what really brings us all together. Hackers like hacking. Beyond that, the possibilities are boundless.

Organizers should plan with purpose. Every element of a traditional hackathon can be tweaked to match planners’ specific goals and vision. Name. Size. Location. Activities. Format. Food. Sponsors. There are so many open variables and so much space to fill.

At HackCon – a gathering of over 100 hackathon organizers from around the nation – Dina Lamdany from Columbia University’s ADI pushed us to think about how we manifest our values through our hackathon.

Dina's slide

This inspired us to be more conscious, to take a step back and ask why.

We think about this every day while planning Bitcamp. Our hackathon is positioned somewhere between an experiment and a statement. We don’t want to just be another hackathon clone at the University of Maryland. We want to create a new hackathon experience.

For example, to enforce our YOU+TECH theme, we will be abandoning traditional judging system to encourage students to create projects that are inspired by their own passions and interests, instead of inspired solely by competition. Our expo event will be more similar to Maker Faire or CES, events whose culture incites community, creativity, and innovation. We’re going all out with this concept, building up our expo to be the climactic and most exciting segment of Bitcamp.

Bop It

We are trying out new things that reflect our values while employing the hackathon boilerplate created by our predecessors. And we’re excited to collaborate with fellow hackers to further develop our ideas and move this community forward.