What is a “Hackathon”?
All across the world, hackathons are hosted by both corporations and students who are passionate about technology, education, and building.
Even absolute beginners can get involved – I, myself, got hooked on Computer Science while attending my first hackathon with no prior experience.
Contrary to what the name suggests, hackathons don’t involve “hacking.” Conversely, hackathons are make-a-thons that take place over the span of a few days. During the event, creative, motivated people of all backgrounds, ages, and experience levels come together to turn their ideas into reality.
Though the word “hack” implies breaking into systems and possibly doing something illegal, the “hack” in a hackathon refers to the project itself. Projects can segue from idea to actualization within as little as 24 hours. In this sense, the “hack” is a newly fleshed out idea – the code will not always be the cleanest, but it will provide insight as to how the idea can be further implemented.
Hackathon Term Disambiguation
- Hackathon: A codefest where hacks are put together by hackers, a portmanteau of “hack” and “makeathon”
- Hacking: “Hacking” is the action of putting a project together, not illegally breaking into systems
- Hack: The “hack” is the project itself, ranging from a VR game to a machine-learning piano keyboard and beyond
- Hackers: The term “hackers” refers to the hackathon’s attendees who are putting together projects
Learn Content for Hackathons
Many hackathons will host a series of workshops to kick off the event. There are workshops for those with no experience, as well as for experienced developers.
For example, VandyHacks at Vanderbilt University provides beginner introductions for topics such as web development and app building, but also offers more advanced topics, such as natural language processing and AR and VR usage. Many hackathons will also have mentors available throughout the event who can help participants with particular technologies and programming languages.
Hackathons are opportunities for communities to come together and bring their creative potential into expression. Learning from others is arguably the most fulfilling part of the process. The projects that come out of hackathons are manifestations of the ability for anybody, from any background, to build and create. The events themselves are a great way to learn how to code and how to develop ideas outside of the classroom.
Prepare for Hackathons
Experience is not required to participate and excel at hackathons. Many winners of previous hackathons have been teams that were composed of first-time hackers from varying schools.
Last year at VandyHacks, the grand prize winner was a hardware-based hack that was able to track where people were in a store through sound data. Even more impressive than the hack was the winners’ backgrounds: none of them knew each other before attending VandyHacks, proving they were a truly “hacked” together team.
Picking up some of the aforementioned skills, as well as acquiring foundational experience and securing app ideas could help anybody looking to rapidly ramp up at any future hackathon.
People do not necessarily have to come with ideas, but they should come prepared to learn, meet people, and build! Hackathons are all about connecting with people in a space where interaction is typically mediated over digital communication.
Form Teams at a Hackathon
There is no need to come to a hackathon with a predetermined team. While it’s arguably easier to start working together if you already know your team, hackathons are all about diverse, new people, of different backgrounds, combining their ideas to create something they like. As a result, hackathons typically host brainstorming and team-finding sessions that simultaneously help people begin work on projects and match up groups of people.
For example, a team with an idea to form a web application that helps people manage their pet needs might need a “backend” or a “frontend” team member. The backend is essentially the bulk of where the application does its calculations. The frontend is the appearance of a web app and is responsible for connecting the results of the backend to the rest of the app in a way that it’s accessible for users.
Not everybody needs to know how to program to make a successful project. In fact, diverse backgrounds are excellent for making a team. A hackathon team made up of graphic designers, project managers, or other titles can definitely be successful.
Our aforementioned hypothetical team may be really passionate about creating a database about pet needs to quickly connect users to the information they need, but is unsure of how they want to design or display it.
This team would need a frontend person to program the visual side to make their app easy to read and access. It could very well be the other way around, as well – the team may have a great design in mind but needs someone that’s more passionate and skilled in writing the backend. Hackathons are all about learning new things and trying on new hats. In the suit, it is common to form teams of people from different backgrounds simply to experiment with new roles.
Cool Projects that Come Out of Hackathons
Hackathons can be data visualizations, games, teaching tools, and applications that solve problems. Some apps that I’ve personally seen offer free eye tests using machine learning and computer vision, music games, and hardware to enhance businesses.
Others software projects include social media mobile apps designed for both Android and iOS operating systems. Innovation is embedded throughout technology, and hackathons are manifestations of creative energy.
Hackathons are sometimes themed towards a specific goal, such as open-source or social good. These types of projects often aim to solve a problem in the world, benefiting others through technology. Other hackathons, such as those hosted by video game companies, are meant for people who are passionate about a certain product and wish to improve it.
Devpost has many projects that were submitted to hackathons across the world. Many of these projects are open-sourced on GitHub, a platform for coders to make their code visible for anyone to see. Here, you can see the results of peoples’ creativity, energy, and time during a hackathon.
Other Activities at Hackathons
There are tons of mini-events that organizers create for their attendees. From karaoke to scavenger hunts, there are plenty of things to do other than hack!
People at hackathons are the best resources to understand the variety of activities that the hackathon provides. Other attendees are oftentimes excellent resources for those of you who are aspiring careers in the Computer Science field, simply looking to debug particularly tricky bits of code, and also wish to make friends and mentors.
What Makes a Successful Hackathon?
Learning! Producing just a minimum viable product, or MVP is an incredible achievement. MVPs are essentially a proof-of-concept of your idea and are used all the time in the actual software development process. Computer programmers are always making incremental changes, and hackathons are excellent ways to get initial knowledge about a topic in which people have interests.
Even after the event ends, the problem-solving techniques learned through debugging challenging problems amid hackathon projects can continue to be useful in fields beyond and beyond computer programming.
Tips for Your First Hackathon
- Don’t stress!
- Ask people for help. Organizers, mentors, and sponsors are all here to help you succeed. After all, everybody was in the same beginner state at some point.
- Google anything and everything, and feel free to use Wikipedia! Oftentimes, someone else will have had the exact same problem at some point in life, and it’s probably on StackOverflow
- Have fun!
What Do You Bring?
- Mobile devices
- Water bottle
- Sleeping bag (certain hackathons have a sleeping room and/or provide sleeping bags)
Hackathons can be anywhere from local universities, high schools, and corporations to purely virtual spaces.
Typically, hackathons are completely free! The spirit of hackathons is to provide everybody with a shot at making whatever they want. Food, swag, and prizes are all at no cost to hackers. The only potential costs are transportation to the hackathon, though many hackathons offer travel reimbursements, as well.
Organize a Hackathon
If there are no hackathons in the surrounding region, the best move for you may be to organize a hackathon! Several organizations help new budding hackathons in the form of funding, workshops, and assistance.
For a comprehensive guide that breaks down all of the portions that we couldn’t cover in this article, check out this step-by-step hackathon guide. There’s tons of information on how to attract sponsorship, how to cultivate a community, and prepare potential attendees for hackathons.
Get started and good luck!
NCC Tutors Nigerians How to Tackle Flubot Malware
By Sodeinde Temidayo David
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has alerted Nigerian telecom users of the existence of a new high-risk and extremely damaging malware called Flubot.
The NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr Ikechukwu Adinde, said the malware is like every other malicious software and program designed specifically to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system.
“When Flubot infects a device, it can result in incalculable financial losses. Additionally, the malware creates a backdoor which grants access to the user’s device, thus enabling the invader or attacker to perform other criminal actions, including launching other variants of malware,” he said.
Information from the Nigeria Computer Emergency Response Team (ngCERT) revealed that Flubot malware targets androids with fake security updates and app installations.
The Flubot impersonates android mobile banking applications to draw fake web views on targeted applications, and its goal transcends stealing personal data and essentially targets stealing of credit card details or online banking credentials.
This malware can also be circulated through Short Message Service (SMS) and can snoop on incoming notifications, initiate calls, read or write SMSes, and transmit the victim’s contact list to its control centre.
It attacks Android devices by pretending to be FedEx, DHL, Correos, and Chrome applications and compels unsuspecting users to alter the accessibility configurations on their devices in order to maintain a continuous presence on devices.
The new malware damages the security of devices by copying fake login screens of prominent banks, and the moment the users enter their login details on the fake pages, their data is collected and transmitted to the malware operators’ control point.
This control quarter is where the data is exploited by intercepting banking-related One Time Passwords (OTPs) and replacing the default SMS app on the targeted Android device.
The malware is also capable of securing access into the device through SMS and proceeds to transmit similar messages to other contacts that may be on the device it has attacked, enticing them into downloading the fake app.
In a bid to tackle this malicious action, protect millions of telecom consumers and prevent criminal forces from using telecom platforms to execute fraud and complete damages, the NCC also listed measures to guard against attacks from Flubot.
Telecom users are expected not to install any app or security update following a page request, also not to click on any link when they receive a suspicious text message.
Users should also consider the use of updated antivirus software that detects and prevents malware infections, and apply critical patches to the system and application.
Also, the use of strong passwords and enabling Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) over logins should be embraced.
Data should be Backed-up regularly, and if affected by this campaign, victims should reset their device to factory mode as soon as possible as this will delete any data on your phone, including personal data.
According to the NCC, backups made after installing the malicious program should not be restored, and victims may contact ngCERT platform for technical assistance.
Infected personnel will also need to change the passwords to all of y online accounts, with urgency, around online bank accounts.
If anyone has concerns that their accounts may have been accessed by unauthorized people, they are advised to contact their bank immediately.
Interswitch Unveils Report on Future of Africa’s Digital Economy
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A report aimed to help drive the growth of African businesses through blockchain technology has been unveiled by Interswitch Group, a leading integrated digital payment and e-commerce company on the continent.
The whitepaper titled Blockchain Technology: The Future of Africa’s Digital Economy, according to the Managing Director of Transaction Switching and Payment Processing at Interswitch, Mr Akeem Lawal, “was inspired by the need to demystify the ambiguity around blockchain technology for African businesses, thereby driving digitization and socio-economic growth across African markets.”
“We are passionate about empowering Africans and advancing the African payment landscape, and we are consistently identifying opportunities and exploring innovative ways to enable businesses to transform and scale,” he added.
Blockchain technology is a digital ledger that stores transactions. Essentially, it is a digital system for recording transactions in multiple places at the same time thereby making it impossible to falsify the data stored on it. The technology is evolving globally and businesses are integrating Blockchain technology into their business infrastructure.
The whitepaper document released by Interswitch contains details on how businesses can leverage blockchain technology to transform their businesses and the prospects it portends for the future of Africa’s digital economy.
Mr Lawal disclosed that the document encapsulates the benefits of blockchain technology and how it will help strengthen businesses because of its efficiency, better security in keeping records and safety.
“While the blockchain technology is a relatively new phenomenon in Nigeria and Africa, we are particularly excited about our partnership with Interstellar with whom we are developing a native blockchain infrastructure that is tailored to suit the African market,” he stated.
“This initiative will deepen digital payment, lower the cost of local and cross border payment as well as champion the cause for localization of emerging technology,” Mr Lawal assured.
He urged everyone to read the whitepaper document because it addresses existing challenges in the Fintech sector and simplifies the use of blockchain technology in unravelling these challenges.
Google Thrills Android Lovers With Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
It is an exciting moment for Andriod and Pixel lovers as Google is set to reveal its new Pixel 6 and 6 pro phones in a few hours’ time.
While the multinational technology company traditionally holds an October hardware event to reveal its new Pixel phones, it is a new thing that it had already announced this year’s innovations to be unveiled.
“On October 19, we’re officially introducing you to Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro—the completely reimagined Google phones. Powered by Tensor, Google’s first custom mobile chip, they’re fast, smart, and secure. And they adapt to you. #Pixel6Launch,” the company had earlier disclosed.
However, the excitement from fans all over the globe seems to be below expectation given that a lot has already been learned about the upcoming Google flagship, thanks to some leaks on the key details of the phones which have been in circulation before now.
There are no confirmations on what the new products will function like, but various leaks have it that the regular Pixel 6 is set to have a 6.4-inch FHD+ display with a 90Hz refresh rate.
It has also been speculated to sport a 50MP main camera and a 12MP ultrawide, while the Pixel 6 Pro ups the ante with a 6.71-inch QHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate and a third 48MP telephoto camera with 4x optical zoom.
Regardless, the introduction of the two new versions will see not only a significant departure from previous Pixels but also Google’s first attempt at its own silicon & Artificial Intelligence – a revolutionary outcome for Android users.
What has been confirmed is that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro will be the flagship devices for the latest Android version – 12, which also has a major visual design change.
The event which is themed Pixel Fall Launch will not only focus on the introduction of Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro as there is room for surprises, that is, the unveiling of sister gadgets or applications.
According to Google, the launch is scheduled to commence at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. BST. This means that for West African Time, it will be watchable starting from 6 pm today, and can be viewed on several platforms using various live-stream options.
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