My journey into Hackathons


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My journey into Hackathons

When the pandemic was taking place, I once checked my emails and read about an art and tech Hackathon in a newsletter. I questioned whether I could participate in this or not, yet my curiosity is always stronger than my self-doubts and shyness. I scrolled through the list of participants and found a neuroscientist, who immediately sparked my interest. Over the course of the next weeks we collected our thoughts in a micro board and meet across continents and time zones on hour long Zoom meetings. We did not end up handing in a project, since it was not fully developed and difficult to assemble under the conditions of the pandemic.

Nevertheless this led me on a wonderful journey of Hackathons that I keep on exploring with a lot of heart blood and dedication for the time being…

In September 2022 I applied for a week long in-person “Hackathon in Residency” taking place in Germany. Even though I luckily got accepted, I unfortunately couldn’t attend since I was in Linz attending the Festival University at the same time. 

But another chance was around the corner to join my first in-person Hackathon: In October 2022 „Girls in Tech Switzerland” hosted a Hackathon at On Labs in Zurich. When I applied for the Hackathon I wasn’t expecting to get in, since I listed that my educational background was in Fine Arts. To my surprise I was being accepted and additionally was also accepted for the challenge I most wanted to explore. We could either choose between the Esri, Meta or Digitec challenge and Esri was my first choice. During the course of the Hackathon I got to know a lot of amazing women working in tech and noticed that similar to myself, many had a non linear path that led them to this Hackathon. I knew that I was in a good place when I heard everyone’s story and that the backgrounds of the participants ranged from archeology to architecture.  

I was a few weeks into my Bachelor of Computer Science (that I quit in the meantime) when I realized that I needed to use this semester to adapt and adjust my life to build a healthy balance. Sometimes is better to take a break to reflect and regain energy. It became sort of a running joke that I was mostly spotted at talks and events happening at university and not in the lecture halls. But this was my way of finding out what I wanted.

For example I attended a talk of one of my heroes in the rubric of animation: Ed Catmull (the recording of the talk is available here: At the end of Catmulls talk Markus Gross told an anecdote: He said that when he started his time at ETH as a professor he ran into the Turing award winner Niklaus Wirth at the cafeteria and he asked him what he was doing. He told Wirth: “Computer Graphics”. And Wirth replied that he didn’t know that this is part of Computer Science. The school system is always very slow at adapting and similarly animation or 3D modeling was not part of my curriculum when I studied Arts in Zurich.

This talk very much inspired me to trust my gut and continue my journey into more Hackathons. Besides being a great opportunity to gain experience about something you have not previously explored, meeting cool people, test out state of the art technology, Hackathons are wonderful chance to leave your comfort zone. In November 2022 I saw that a Blockchain Hackathon was taking place in Berlin. A mixture of curiosity about the current state of Crypto and me missing Berlin led to the decision to take the next train to Berlin. I figured quickly that this is not the type of Hackathon that I enjoy, but I went Bouldering with my teammate afterwards and started to continue Bouldering to this day. 

A few days later I took the train to Rotterdam, since the VRdays Europe were hosting a XR Hackathon. This definitely was my type of Hackathon. And my team was the perfect mix of skills. A wonderful moment during the course of the Hackathon was, when once a man who visited the VRdays exhibition entered the room, where the Hackathon was taking place and asked my team what we were doing here and we said: „A Hackathon“. He replied a bit surprised: “What that’s amazing! I see so many women in this room.“ 

Then in December 2022 I did another online Hackathon. (DODO Hackathon), since a former Festival University student sent me the info.

My last Hackathon that took place recently in January 2023 was very intense, yet my absolute highlight. Those who know me in person know that visiting MIT was one of my biggest dreams since a very long time. So many people I look up to have studied or taught there, or are currently doing research in the Media Lab (Joseph Weizenbaum, Joy Buolamwini just to name a few). And I can still remember vividly, when I checked my emails and saw that I was accepted to attend the MIT Reality Hack.

It felt surreal, until I entered the MIT Media Lab and picked up my badge at the early bird registration the day before the Hackathon started. The next day at the opening ceremony of the Hackathon I found myself in a lecture hall of MIT surrounded by 300+ people from all over the world who share my passion. I still find it hard to put this Hackathon into words (Daniel from Foundry wrote a wonderful reflection here), but I give it a try: The Hackathon was held under the motto of “presence” and having attended both online, as well as offline Hackathons in the past I must admit that I prefer in-person Hackathons, since you stumble upon so many nice people that you wouldn’t in an online Hackathon, where you are just talking to your teammates in a video chat. My goals for this Hackathon were to have a nice team and build something cool. To my surprise my team not only managed to be on the same wave length, but we also took home the Grand Prize. Like many others who attended the MIT Reality Hack this year, I feel like I found my community.

If this article raised your curiosity and you want to attend a Hackathon (or a Game Jam), but struggle to find a Hackathon that fits you, feel free to drop me a direct message… happy to help you navigate the endless possible routes you can take.

PS: A good way to find new Hackathons, is to post about Hackathons you attended on Instagram, since Instagram will start to show you advertisements for more Hackathons every once in a while, when you use the word „Hackathon“ in images or in image descriptions.