Peer-Led Hackathon: An Intense Learning Experience

Miguel Lara, Kate Lockwood, Eric Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A “hackathon” is a computer-programming event in which volunteers work intensely in small teams for a short amount of time to develop a program prototype. These events became widespread during the 2000s as software companies and other venture capitalists used them to “quickly develop new software technologies, and to locate new areas for innovation and funding” (Briscoe & Mulligan, 2014, p.4). Recently, their popularity is spreading worldwide across undergraduate institutions in computer science (Gould, 2014) as a way to give students a focused, “real world” experience working in a team problem-solving environment. Due to their great impact, similar activities have been organized in several other disciplines, including bioinformatics (Trainer & Herbsleb, 2014), marketing (Calco & Veeck, 2015), healthcare (Aungst, 2015), Big Data (Gould, 2014), and dance composition (Briscoe & Xuan, 2014).
The most common elements that characterize hackathons are: (a) participants are organized into small groups that work intensely (sometimes around the clock), (b) a short time frame, usually during an long weekend, in which the project is taken from concept to prototype, (c) a centralized location where teams meet, work, and share resources and (d) support (technical, food, mentoring, etc.) provided by organizers and sponsors.


  • Project-based learning
  • Peer-led learning
  • collaborative learning


  • Computer Sciences
  • Software Engineering

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