Hackathons for beginners: No coding experience? No problem!

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First things first—what is a hackathon? Just high-pressure coding events for advanced programmers furiously typing line after line of complex code, right? Wrong! Not only are there plenty of hackathons for beginners, a growing number welcome participants who have never coded before. 

So let’s kick those misconceptions right away—yes, there are a lot of different types of hackathons out there, and while not all would be right for beginners or kids, there are still many events designed to get people of all ages and experience levels excited about coding. To attend, participants don’t have to be a programming pro, though an online class in hacking won't hurt, just interested in learning more about this awesome area of STEM. 

Of course, knowing where to find hackathons these days is half the challenge. Not only are most taking place virtually online, it’s also a matter of sifting through the long lists of upcoming events to find the right level, coding challenge, and community to kick off your child's coding adventure. 

With a little research (or simply by reading the rest of this blog post), you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect fit!

These are beginner-friendly coding events that encourage not just a little fun competition but opportunities to dive into coding in an engaging environment. 

Why? Because learning should be fun, right? The more interactive a learning experience, the better, and many hackathons bring this element and more to learning to code. 

Of course, trying anything new can be intimidating, so before we take a look at specific events, let’s cover a few basics of what to expect from your child's first hackathon. 

What to expect at a beginner-level hackathon

A hackathon is an event designed to use technology, mostly coding, to achieve an established goal. At this type of hackathon, that goal might include experimenting with Java, Python, or one of the other best programming languages for beginners. You can also expect fun, educational workshops or an interactive demo that teaches coding skills.

If your child is interested in participating but is a little uncertain or nervous about jumping in, platforms like Hackathon Jr and CEL Kids are great places for kids to try out what they’ll do at a hackathon event. 

From there, it’s easy for all ages to dive into exciting challenges in technology. 

Hackathons for Beginners

The following events are kid-friendly and designed to introduce STEM to teens through fun challenges and workshops. (Each of these hackathons will be held virtually.) 

Hackja 2021

What: Perfect for experienced and beginner high school programmers alike, Hackja is a fun, 24-hour virtual event. Kids have the opportunity to learn from computer science students and professional mentors while flexing their coding muscles!

When: June 4, 2021

Register: Click here!

Lighthouse Hacks 2021

What: High school students will enjoy learning to code while also hearing from experts in entrepreneurship, AI, and careers in computer science. The two-day event is open to all high school students who can compete in teams of up to five participants. 

When: April 24-25, 2021

Register: Click here!

Maryland Innovation Center 2021 Hackathon

What: In teams, students will complete coding challenges and learn about real-world applications of programming in innovative fields like energy efficiency, sustainable farming, and urban planning. No coding experience is needed to participate, and according to the event website, “Every great hackathon team needs a diverse set of skills, including graphic design, business, marketing, and communication.”

When: September 9-11, 2021

Register: Click here!

Reesby Hackathon and Tech Workshop

What: Open to beginners, computer science students, and experts alike, this event offers virtual seminars along with cash prizes for coding challenge winners. Aspiring coders can work individually or in teams while learning and being inspired.

When: May 13, 2021

Register: Click here!

Endurance Hackathon

What: This virtual hackathon is a global event that focuses on web development and designing great UX experiences. Using AI and a startup mentality, teams will pitch their ideas and collaborate to come up with a great product. All experience levels can participate in the two-day coding event, activities, and educational sessions. 

When: May 22-23, 2021

Register: Click here!

Hackabot 2021  Hackathon

What: Robotics enthusiasts unite! This hackathon joins awesome hardware with hands-on programming with a purpose. This year’s theme is “Laying the Foundation for a More Connected Future,” and the sessions will explore the theme by applying practical STEM concepts to various real-world issues. This event is open to college students with any level of coding experience. 

When: April 22-24

Register: Click here!

Enjoy the benefits of hackathons

These hackathon events provide an opportunity to tackle something many of us have been striving to accomplish this past year: high-quality remote learning, prototype-building, and diving into independent passion projects. 

Once introduced to the exciting world of hackathons, there’s so much more to discover. 

From there, professional hackathons can launch careers and attract employers; 30.3% of all hackathons take place on college campuses for this very reason. At the next level, students will have the opportunity to learn while trying their hands at a professional-level process—and potentially doing a live job interview. 

Plus, organizations like AngelHack, supported by industry game-changers like IBM and Amazon, host competitive hackathons for serious cash prizes. And on top of that, they often offer an even better prize: the chance to take an amazing innovative concept and bring it into existence. 

Best of luck, and at the very least, getting started with hackathons is one of the best ways to spark a love of STEM!

A photo of Virginia

Virginia started with iD Tech at the University of Denver in 2015 and has loved every minute since then! A former teacher by trade, she has a master's in education and loves working to embolden the next generation through STEM. Outside the office, you can usually find her reading a good book, struggling on a yoga mat, or exploring the Rocky Mountains.