What is a hackathon?

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is an event in which different actors compete against each other. Participants can be experts from different fields of computer science, recent graduates in scientific subjects, PhD students or even students. It generally lasts between a day and a week, during which participants, divided into teams, will have to carry out a project in competition with everyone else.

The term “hackathon” comes from the fusion of the words “hack”, meaning experimental and unstructured programming, and “marathon,” marathon. The origin of the name explains the two main characteristics of this event: the computer science field in which it was born, and endurance, understood as dedication to achieving the goal.

The first event with this name was the OpenBSD Hackathon in Calgary, Canada, on June 4, 1999. Also in 1999, at JavaOne’s annual conference, Englishman John Gage issued a challenge to create a program related to the Palm V handheld: the event was christened “The Hackathon.”

From there on, this type of event multiplied and spread all over the world, in different forms and with different characteristics: in the 2000s, hackathons became occasions promoted by different organizations for the development of new projects and the creation of new synergies.

What is the purpose of a hackathon?

The purpose of a hackathon is to create opportunities, using unconventional ways: in some cases, it can encourage innovation in a specific technology sector or even in a specific service. More and more often, in fact, small and large companies are organizing these events to be able to reach innovative solutions that they would not otherwise be able to find.

Other types of opportunities are created by providing an environment in which people with different skills collaborate face-to-face on a specific project that affects everyone equally, fostering relationships among participants that might not otherwise have been created. These kinds of connections can become fertile ground for the birth of projects and ideas that would never have seen the light of day otherwise.

The projects that are realized during hackathons, then, are never an end in themselves: in fact, these survive the event and can be the basis for ideas, collaborations and teams, which can become the first cores of future start-ups or innovative ideas!

Tondo’s hackathon

Over the years Tondo has organized several hackathons, very different in size, challenge, and context: the only thing these events had in common was the theme of circular economy.

It is the case of Hacking the city, a format that Tondo repeated in 2021 and 2023: this is the first Italian hackathon entirely dedicated to circular cities. Organized in online mode and then in hybrid mode, it was designed to bring to life and concretize projects that would foster the implementation of the Circular Economy in cities, involving students, recent graduates and doctoral students. Key partners included A2A, Lavazza, Salvatore Ferragamo, Iren, Esselunga, Cisco and many others.

Tondo has also chosen to bring the hackathon format within larger events, such as the various editions of Re-think – Circular Economy Forum: in several editions, such as the one currently being organized, Tondo proposed a hackathon aimed at local students that could enrich the experience.

In addition, Tondo has collaborated with external entities by bringing his experience in organizing hackathons: a recent case in point was the CLOCKS project, in the context of the Circular Summer School in Padua. Held in July 2023, the hackathon integrated and enriched the Summer School program by involving companies such as Barilla and Albini to implement circular projects.

How to register for a hackathon?

It will soon be possible to register for the hackathon organized by Tondo as part of the Re-think Circular Economy Forum Taranto 2023: monitoring the website will make it possible to receive detailed information about it. it is also possible to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest news.

Emma Salioni

WIth a degree in Digital content management for media, enterprises and cultural heritage, Emma Salioni has always had a strong interest in sustainability and circularity. After a period of time spent workin in The Netherlands, she started working with Tondo managing social media and communication, as well as supporting the organization of hackathons and events.