Participant Resources

User Story: Ansh's do's and don'ts for student hackathons

Here’s a look at how Ansh tackles participating in and winning student hackathons.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your studies.

I'm a second-year computer science major at Georgia Tech. I fell in love with software engineering when I was 14 when my cousin showed me that I could manipulate Minecraft with software plugins. The joy and challenge of creating new experiences with simple logic pushed me to delve deeper into full-stack engineering. Although my passion for physics and math has inspired me to pursue a career in modeling and simulation, I still enjoy creating apps.

(Check out Ansh’s Devpost profile to see her portfolio of winning projects.)

How did you first discover student hackathons? 

My first exposure to hackathons was through Major League Hacking (MLH), I then began competing in local Bay Area hackathons around 2019. My experience during my first hackathons was different than most. I came in as a typical engineer, with all the passion for development and none for the entrepreneurial spirit. Although I learned a lot of new technologies on the fly, the most valuable skill I learned was coming up with feasible ideas. The opportunity to tackle hard problems and brainstorm products that might actually work kept me coming back!

Can you walk us through your preparation process for a student hackathon, from forming a team to planning your project?

At first, I was an over-prepper! I would come into hackathons with a jotted list of ideas and look for teammates who could help me flesh them out. However, I've learned that gathering people from different backgrounds and brainstorming fresh ideas without biases is much more rewarding and productive. It often leads to more logical conversations and produces more feasible ideas.

How has participating in student hackathons helped you build networks and connections within the tech and innovation community?

I think one of the coolest things about hackathons is the fact that you get to network with people from all over the country and the world.

This was especially true as I was participating in online hackathons during COVID-19, where I met a fellow student developer who lived in Michigan. He and I became friends quickly and went on to win quite a few online hackathons! We still stay in touch and update each other on what we're up to.

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How do you view failure or setbacks during a hackathon, and what lessons have you learned from these experiences?

I honestly believe that not winning a hackathon teaches you more than winning one. Losses incentivize me to retrospect—was our idea unfeasible? Was our technology not innovative enough? What did the winners do right? Through my failed ideas, I've come to develop a strong list of do's and don'ts when it comes to hackathons.

Hackathons have taught me how to communicate well in any collaboration, whether in the workplace or beyond. After having worked with all sorts of developers, mentors, and organizers, I've learned how to brainstorm, delegate, and debug with others in a way that uses everybody's skill sets efficiently.

I have a list of do's and don'ts that I share with everyone who wants to attend a hackathon for the first time.


  • ​​Treat the product you're making as a prototype. This means having 2-3 must-have features that are necessary to demonstrate that this is a viable idea.
  • Communicate consistently with your teammates, or it's almost guaranteed that miscommunications and setbacks will occur.
  • Even if a technology seems far-fetched to learn in the given time, give it a shot! If nothing else, you'll learn a new skill, and you can explain that the associated feature you have in mind is something to be implemented in the future.
  • Spend a lot of time designing a compelling presentation. This usually means two things: 1) ensuring that your problem statement and solution are in perfect lockstep and 2) that you can communicate all the material in the given time without having to rush through the presentation.
  • Spend even more time building a good user interface for your app. It's what the judges look at most heavily!


  • Don't start development until you have a solid, winning-worthy idea. No matter how impressive the final product is, hackathons are first and foremost places for creative innovation. 
  • Don't spend time adding any features that won't directly show the core functionality of the app. There are most likely much better places to invest the effort.
  • Don't make your app do too many things at once. It's often overwhelming for judges.

Are you feeling inspired to build something amazing? Check out our hackathons happening now!