How to Choose Your Next Hackathon Challenge

Author: Kristina Proffitt

14th March 2017

We continue to gear up towards Hack24! Last week we looked at how to survive a Hackathon. This week, we’re going to look into what you need to consider when deciding which hackathon challenge(s) you want to enter.

At Hack24, you can enter as many challenges as you want so long as your finished hack fits the brief. That means you have the chance to compete for multiple prizes and get extra creative!

But how do you decide which challenge(s) are best suited to you and your team?

Pick the challenge(s) that inspire you

At Hack24 you’ve got up to 24 hours to focus on your hack, so there’s no point picking a challenge you’re not interested in or that doesn’t inspire you. You’ll find it harder to concentrate after a few hours and it will likely come across in the end presentation.

As the night draws in and you start to wonder why you decided to do this in the first place, you’ll find it a lot easier to keep going if it’s a challenge and product that inspires you. Not only that, but you’ll enjoy working on it more than on something you picked just to win the prize. Which leads me nicely on to my next point:

Don’t just keep your eyes on the prize

While there are always great prizes on offer at Hack24 and at hackathons in general, just aiming for the prize can be a recipe for disaster, especially if the challenge doesn’t inspire you. Prizes are great rewards, but when a team is exclusively motivated by the prize and not the love of the project, it can come across.

Adam Bird stylishly modelling one of the previous prizes from Hack24.

Pick the challenge you’ll have the most fun with

You and your teammates need to work together – and work hard – to create something great in 24 hours, but you’re still there to have fun!

Meet with your team beforehand to discuss the options and see how you feel about each. If you can’t agree, list your ideas and try to match them with the challenges you’re interested in, then ask yourselves how close you can come to creating an (almost) finished product in just 24 hours. While you want to have fun, you also need to be realistic. Not every idea you have will be doable 24 hours, but write down everything that you can think of anyway. Even the worst idea could spark something great. The more ideas you come up with, the more likely you are to find one that works.

You can’t code before the event, but you can plan. The more you plan in advance, the more you’ll achieve on the day itself.

Get out of your comfort zone

Hackathons aren’t just about making a product, they’re about challenging yourself, learning new skills and meeting new people. Go for a challenge that pushes you outside of your comfort zone and makes you feel slightly unsure.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” A hackathon is the perfect challenge to do just that!

Make the most of your team’s strengths

Everyone has their strengths whether it’s C#, .NET, CSS, video production, design or copywriting. Playing to your team’s strengths also means everyone will have their share of the spotlight. This will only help your team deliver a better product and presentation. We have it from a trusted source that judges notice things like teamwork.

Have fun creating something great

You don’t have to create something boring for it to be useful, and you don’t have to create something fun that’s futile. Fun products can be just as useful as ones that aren’t so entertaining. Take the example of last year’s Cronofy winner, TransparentRed, which synced a user’s fridge to their calendar.

Working on something exciting will keep you going into the early hours, when your body starts to crave some shut eye time.

Be greedy (you can enter multiple challenges!)

If the event is like Hack24 and you can enter as many challenges as you like with one product, do it!

If you’ve got time or are really inspired, why not create multiple products to enter multiple challenges!


How have you chosen your hackathon challenges in the past? What motivates you? Do you use the same reasoning every time? We’d love to hear your tips! Tweet us your ideas @cronofy or let us know on the Cronofy Facebook page.

Avatar of Kristina Proffitt

Kristina Proffitt

Date: 14th March 2017 | Category: Hacks, How To