Online Hackathons 101

How To Manage The Team Formation And Prototype Phases?

In part one of “Online Hackathons 101”, we covered the pre-launch phase breaking it down into ten steps, each with its relevant checklist. If you haven’t checked it yet, you can find it here. If you already have, let’s move on to the next phases; the team formation and prototype.

After the hackathon launch, things get a little intense; you are supposed to handle several tasks such as manage applications, communicate with judges and mentors, moderate the hackathon community, all in parallel.
As a hackathon organizer, you need to orchestrate the entire event, putting everything in its right place at the right time. A key to making this happen is to work with checklists, we grouped tasks in different checklists based on the three main roles in any hackathon; participants, mentors, and judges.

1. Participants: Team formation, community moderation, and mentorship. 2. Mentors: Teams’ mentorship, hackathon webinars, and online sessions. 3. Judges: Onboarding of judges and the evaluation process.

Each of the team formation and prototype phases should have their own checklists, we are going to go through the three checklists for each phase separately, starting with the team formation. Let’s Jump in!

Each of the team formation and prototype phases should have their own checklists, we are going to go through the three checklists for each phase separately, starting with the team formation. Let’s Jump in!

TEAM FORMATION

The hackathon organizer’s main role here is to provide teams with space to complete their skill sets by finding new members to join them, also for individuals to match with the right teams.

1. Participants

A participant’s experience starts from the signup page, then forming a team and connecting with the hackathon community and mentors, and finally filling the application form. Generally, the logistics of signup, team formation, and application form should be smooth.

Here is the checklist to manage participants in the team formation phase:

  • Instructions on the sign-up process is communicated in the hackathon announcements, in toolkits, and on the hackathon website.
  • Participants are directed to the Team formation platform once they sign up for the hackathon.
  • Moderating the community platform regularly and replying to the community questions to facilitate the matching of teams and individuals. The less time spent forming teams, the more time left for working on the ideas and filling the application form.
  • Deadline announcements and instructions on the application forms are communicated regularly to the community via email and on announcements pages.
  • 2. Mentors

  • Assign mentors to teams.
  • Mentors can easily follow up on the team’s performance, monitor their progress, and directly communicate with teams whenever needed.
  • Team mentors can easily schedule and conduct sessions with their teams, sessions or webinars meant for the hackathon community are delivered on a regular basis.
  • Webinars and sessions schedule are accessible by participants.
  • 3. Judges

    For a streamlined evaluation process; here is a brief yet essential checklist:

  • Send reminders to judges a few days before the evaluation start date.
  • Stick to the number of evaluations you previously agreed upon with each mentor.
  • Communicate the deadline to finish evaluations and send reminders.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to access and fill the evaluation form.
  • PROTOTYPES

    The prototype phase is usually between 3 days to one week, based on progress expected from the teams to reach with their prototypes.

    How to manage the prototype phase in an online hackathon?

    1. Teams

    Now managing a few teams should be much easier than a whole online community. Still, it is an intense phase as the teams are expected to work hard to get their prototypes live by the deadline. There is a huge part on the hackathon organizer to help make that happen, especially if some of the teams don’t have experience participating in an online hackathon.

    One trick that should help here is to have teams work with daily milestones, to ensure they get the best use of their limited time, and manage to submit their prototypes on time.

    A checklist should make managing this phase easier for you and more productive for the teams:

  • Introducing teams to mentors as early as possible, fill mentors in with their work plan and sessions schedule so they can take it from there.
  • If you have the resources, assign two mentors for each team; a technical expert and a project manager.
  • Communicate milestones with teams and send reminders of what they should achieve for day 1, day 2, etc. For example: “Today you should be working on X part of your prototype…” or “you should put together a mockup demo for your app…..”
  • Ensure that the teams submit a progress report to their mentors by the end of each day.
  • Send reminders before the deadline of submission.
  • 2. Mentors

    As explained in the teams part above, you should facilitate the team-mentor workflow/relationship.

  • Ensure that the logistics of the mentorship sessions are easy for the mentor to follow; for example, sessions are scheduled based on the working hours of the mentor.
  • Teams submit their progress report or assignment to the mentors on time.
  • Mentors can communicate feedback on the teams progress with the hackathon organizer.
  • 3. Judges

    We usually advise our customers to make two evaluation phases for the teams. The first one is the prototype evaluations, which should disqualify some of the teams based on the quality of their protoypesunits, followed by another round for interviews to evaluate the whole business model and choose the hackathon winners.

    For the first phase, it is a typical evaluation process based on a pre-set evaluation criteria. As for the interviews phase, try to schedule the interviews with judges, then give the teams 3-7 days to prepare for the interviews.
    When booking the interviews with the judging panel, have them write down the questions or evaluation criteria they will be asking during the interviews. On your side, make sure that the teams are well prepared for the interviews.

    To sum up, the hackathon success depends on reaching the right audience, managing to get working prototypes at the end of the hackathon, and ensuring a positive experience for all stakeholders; participants, mentors, and judges. The two main factors:

    1. Good communication with stakeholders.
    2. Preparation.
    3. Platforms used for applications and team formation/mentorship.

    You can make communication work if you prepared a list of communication messages and instructions to be sent to each stakeholder on time.

    As for the platform, your choice of the platform to manage the submissions adn evaluations is a key to save time and effort not just for the or hackathon organizers, but also for judges and mentos.
    As mentioned, the community platform is also an important decision to make before the launch of the hackathon. We went through the main features to look for in a hackathon community platform.

    Finally, You can learn more about Untap Compete platform for submissions management and Untap Collaborate for managing the community, including team formation, mentorship, and more.
    Schedule a demo with our team to learn more.

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