How to prepare for a hackathon? Learn from the finalists of NVIDIA Jetson™ Developer Challenge


May 15, 2018

Creators of Sim-to-Real Autonomous Robotic Control, Grand Prize winners of NVIDIA Jetson™ Developer Challenge

Photo: Creators of Sim-to-Real Autonomous Robotic Control, winners of NVIDIA Jetson™ Developer Challenge, private archive

Are you a tech junkie? A prize-hunting, passionate programmer? If the answer is “yes”, then you’ve most probably already taken part in a hackathon or two, but progress can always be made. Why don’t you dive into the stories of finalists of NVIDIA Jetson™ Developer Challenge to get some advice?

We’ve interviewed the teams that reached the top in the challenge to get a better feel of their experience during the contest. For some this hackathon was the first time they’ve participated in such competition, for others it was one of many. Experience doesn’t seem to be the deciding factor in your success or failure, but it certainly has a big impact nonetheless. One way or the other, they proved the best among the competition, they knew exactly what they were doing, so following their advice might help you immensely. Let’s now see what the finalists have to say.

Here’s what they had to say!

Ayman Saleh & Khalid Khalil, creators of TITUSWe would say that whenever you try to start a solution to a problem, don’t think that you need to have the perfect solution right away. If you think like that, it’s very difficult to finish a project. Instead, think about your project as a set of small projects that come together to form a wonderful solution.

Brad Larson, creator of On-UAV realtime detection of storm damageI’d make sure that you had a concrete plan for your project, know exactly the problem it is solving and how it will do so, and be able to explain that clearly. Put together a plan for your video presentation and start working on your write-up for the project early, so that you’ll know what you need to record or describe as you’re working on the technology. Get as much as you can done ahead of time, so that when the inevitable crunch comes at the end you only have a few last things to focus on.

brad larsson nvidia challenge hackathon finalist

Photo: Brad Larson, NVIDIA Jetson™ Developer Challenge finalist, private archive

Marco Antonio, participant of NVIDIA Jetson™ Developer Challenge: My advice to other competitors is first to try to look for those areas of your interest where learning new skills can help you in the future. Then to try to think out of the box on innovative ideas but always with the practical mindset looking at it from the user’s point of view to see what is the real use of your solution. If your project and skills obtained from the hackathon are actually useful later on the prize is even better than actually winning the contest!

It’s clear that different teams had different approach, but the takeaway here is that being organized is the key. No project can be finished on time if you approach it in the most haphazard way imaginable. Sure, there can be a method in one’s madness, but it never hurts to properly plan ahead and take the steps one after another. Let’s break it down now.

Come up with an idea

Yes, we know it’s easier said than done, but with absolutely no vision to begin with there’s no progress to be made. You can be inspired by virtually anything, so just open your mind and let the ideas come rushing in.

Plan your actions

Predicting every step necessary to complete the project might not be possible as you never know what difficulties or lucky accidents might happen. Take your time to be as thorough as you can. You might not be able to tell the future, but in many cases it’s possible to come close, so do your best!

Get ready to start working

After you’ve made a list of all the necessary steps it’s time to make all of that happen. You are going to face some issues, but that’s the nature of working on any project, honestly. Don’t rush anything when it’s not needed, and speed them up when you have to. Be flexible, but not overly relaxed. Finding the balance is the key.

These three steps are honestly all there is to it, this is your basic framework you will need to follow, then incorporate advice from our finalists when needed, and your recipe for success is complete. Now that you have an understanding of how to go about preparing for a hackathon, it’s time to pick an event you will participate in. Visit our list of hackathons to find a challenge just for you! We hope to hear from you!