One Week to the Hackathon!

By this time next week, our fabulous group of parents, pediatricians, educators, designers, and developers will be hard at work hacking during Day 1 of our hackathon! With just one week to go, we’re finalizing all of the details and making sure we have all of the supplies we need. Here’s what’s on our caffeine-fueled brains this week:

Gathering the Troops
We gathered together everyone who will be facilitating, participating in, or documenting the hackathon for a big check-in meeting. We started with reviewing the agenda, but thanks to the thoughtful questions of our designers and developers we quickly honed in on a number of areas we want to refine further, such as:

  • Sharing files and media: How will the designers and developers—all of whom will be working on their personal computers—share files between each other? How will groups share their final projects with us to project to all at the pitches, or later to stakeholders? We want to make sure we enable participants to focus on hacking and not on pesky logistics like how to move files around.
  • What’s the MVP? As media producers, we’re always thinking about the MVP—the minimum viable product. This is essentially the most simplified version of the product that still achieves all of the goals, without all the bells and whistles we one day hope it will have. In this case, we’re trying to understand what the lowest common denominator should be for the products the teams create. Is it a functional, clickable interface? Sketches with detailed notes? An idea that’s been fully fleshed out? How might we develop prototypes in less than two days? While some teams will undoubtedly work faster than others, we want to make sure all teams understand what they need to produce for their hackathon experience to be rewarding and successful. This will also help guide the judging criteria for the pitches.
  • Prototyping tools: There are a number of tools that can make prototyping go much faster—tools that make it easy to simulate interactions or quickly sketch out interfaces. Our designers are planning to spend some time this week familiarizing themselves with these tools so that they can make recommendations to the rest of the designers at the hackathon.

We’ve also held a series of smaller meetings so that we can be as prepared as possible for different approaches from different participants.

Facilitators meeting: All of the facilitators joined together, reviewed the finer details of the hackathon schedule, and simulated one of the hackathon sessions. We fine-tuned some approaches so that goals would be easily understood and resonate with all participants (hopefully!), and so that the session would easily launch us forward to the brainstorming and prototyping phases. We learned that having a facilitator’s guide on-hand with prompts and brief tips (based on our simulation) would be helpful. We plan to host another planning and simulation meeting next week too.

Food finalized!
People will not go hungry at the hackathon! Thanks to local restaurants, we have some delicious meals that will be provided at no-cost and low-cost for our attendees. Meal menus have been finalized and orders have been placed.

Swag and Stuff
We have swag! All participants will receive a super-cool WGBH t-shirt, and parents/pediatricians/educators will also receive a goodie bag of children’s books and puppets. And each community member from the winning team will receive a gift card!

We’re working on gathering the remaining supplies we need. This weekend, we’re making a big run to the store to get everything from brainstorming supplies like large sticky notes and writing utensils, to snacks and water bottles and napkins. A few things we may wait on purchasing until closer to the event—for example, fruit—and other needs will surely pop up as well, so a second store run will be scheduled.

Recruitment Continues
We still have some spots available so we’re continuing to recruit participants. We’ve found that chatting with parents in person is really at the core of the hackathon. The personal invitation allows for conversations and more questions to be answered – the concept of a hackathon is not always familiar and can require some explanation! This is especially true because our hackathon model is unique. We’ve visited and chatted with parents from two of our Head Start partner sites, and another meeting with more parents in the community is scheduled for next week!

Say Cheese!
A big component of our hackathon is documenting the process from start to finish. We plan to have two photographers/videographers from our team at the hackathon next week, and have put them to work coming up with a shot list, interview questions, and video ideas. For example, we know that we want to create a video that others can use to recruit participants to their hackathons. We’ll want to get footage of our participants brainstorming, hacking, presenting, and having a good time. It’s a good idea for the photographers to scope out the space ahead of time to see what the lighting is like and what angles they might get, which they plan to do next week.

It’s all coming together! Keep an eye out for our final updates next week as well as photos and projects from the hackathon.

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