History of Hackathons & why MEST48

MEST, Friday January 11th 2013

Hackathons have recently gained popularity for their ability to speed up the idea generation process exponentially. These marathon coding events typically last for no more than two days (48 hours) and come in several flavors: they can be completely open ended, require participants to use a specific coding language, build for a specific platform, solve a particular problem, or create software around the products of a specific company.

These events have resulted in viable ideas that address various issues including corruption, sanitation, and sustainability, and have even helped companies develop apps for new products. For example, the original idea for Facebook's Timeline feature was developed in one night during a company hack session, and in March 2012, Nike revealed its NikeFuel API at SXSW Music Hackathon to allow hackers to create an app that integrated music with the Nike+ FuelBand.

The second annual MEST48 Product Development Competition is an open ended hackathon that will take place from January 14 -16, 2013 at the MEST campus in East Legon. Teams will develop a business plan and a prototype for an idea with the freedom to choose the coding language, the platform, the industry, and whether they want to integrate with a specific product. The event will span 48 hours and the final pitch will be on January 17th at 9:00 am.

Similar to most hackathons, participants will kick-off the event by presenting 60-second pitches of their ideas, which will get voted on to decide the top ideas. Participants will then form teams of no more than five people around each of the top ideas and get to work. At the end of the 48 hours, teams will present to a panel of local business and technology experts.

The goal of the event is to encourage Ghanaians to create real products that solve real problems, and in the meantime, work and learn from some of the brightest minds in the country.

The event is open to students of MESTAshesi University, and Open University of West Africa and registration is free! Each member of the top three teams, as selected by the panel, will receive prizes, but everybody will walk away with new connections, deeper knowledge about what it takes to generate a viable idea and develop an MVP (minimum viable product), and of course, a free t-shirt!

A few months ago, MEST hosted a Startup Weekend that resulted in some incredibly creative ideas. I am looking forward to the same level of innovation from this event. It will be a great way to get the creative juices flowing in 2013 and welcome everyone at MEST back for another semester of fun (and learning, of course)!

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