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10 Awesome Hackathons For Beginners

If you are a computer science student who’s enthusiastic about coding and the development of apps and software, participating in hackathons can be a great way to gain skills and experience before starting a career.


With the ever-expanding scope of technology, these events also serve as a platform to familiarize oneself and gain hands-on experience in a number of topics like AI, Web3, blockchain, and so on. In fact, if you are considering applying to rigorous undergraduate programs, competitive experience can add quite a lot of value to your profile. 


Admissions officers are on the lookout for students who go beyond traditional classroom learnings, and are motivated to engage with a subject through internships, competitions, and research opportunities. 


However, most students dread the idea of participating in such coding competitions because they might not be equipped with the required skill set. 


So, in this blog, we have curated a list of the top 10 hackathons that are meant for beginners, including as high school students!


You could also check out the National High School Data Science Competition by Veritas AI!



HackMIT is one of the most prestigious hackathons in the league that offers a great learning experience. Conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this hackathon is designed for high schoolers who possess little coding knowledge but want to establish a career in it.


The event generally takes place over the weekend. It consists of workshops where beginners with no coding experience can get to learn from experts. Along with that, HackMIT also hosts a competition in four tracks (impact areas) - sustainability, education, interactive media, and health and accessibility. As a participant, you will be creating a project in any one of these tracks, and if the panel thinks it’s the best, you’ll receive a prize! But that’s not all. Even if you do not come up as a winner, you will receive a token of participation nonetheless. 


In terms of application, you can apply to HackMIT with up to 4 people on your team. But if you don’t have one, the program will conduct a team formation event prior to the contest where you can easily form a team with fellow high school hackers. 


Location: MIT Campus

Program dates: September 16th - September 17th (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: 

  • Applicants must be 18 years or older. 

  • Undergraduates or MIT MEng students.

  • Admitted to HackMIT/walk-ons and follow the Code of Conduct.


An in-person event that takes place on McGill University’s campus, McHacks 11 invites applications from high school coding enthusiasts from all across North America. This hackathon provides a rich, collaborative learning experience, networking opportunities, and mentorship from professional coders and developers - all under one roof! 


What distinguishes McHacks from other hackathons is its inclusivity. As an applicant, you do not have to worry about your skills or expertise before participating. Despite being reputed, the program is open to all - irrespective of their coding/computer science acumen. Besides, since the competition doesn’t span around creating projects on a selected number of topics, you can show off your skills in whatever domain you feel you’re best at. Apart from that, you also get a chance to attend workshops and seminars by industry experts.


Another one of the most lucrative aspects of this hackathon is its prizing arrangement. Whether or not you make it to the Top 3, you will receive a prize in this event. As for the application, you can either participate alone or bring along a team of 4 coding aficionados.  


Location: McGill University Campus

Program dates: January 27th - January 28th (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: High school students above the legal age of majority in their country of residence.


A 2-day event organized by NASA, the Space Apps Challenge hackathon is one of the most illustrious hackathons in the world, spread across 185+ countries. Last year, this program attracted no less than 57,999 registrations - which makes it pretty competitive in comparison to others on the list.  


This hackathon is an ideal destination for both seasoned and novice high school coders and developers to put their skills to the test while gaining a valuable addition for their college SOPs. Not just that. Even if you’re someone with an interest in fields like entrepreneurship, storytelling, or design, this is the platform where you can showcase your talent to make a change. 


As a participant, you will be using NASA’s free and open data to work around projects like astrophysics, space exploration, software development, etc. If your project demonstrates creativity, critical thinking, and tangible value, you might as well bag the Global Winner award! But apart from that, there are several other awards for participants that can immensely bolster both - their SOPs and CVs. 


For the registration process, you need to apply for the hackathon individually first, and then form a team with other participants.


Location: Worldwide (virtual and in-person events)

Program dates: October 5th - October 6th (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: 

  • High school students under the age of 18.

  • Should be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian during the event.


Hoya Hacks is another prestigious hackathon for beginners. Although a few of its previous editions were conducted virtually in the light of COVID-19 restrictions, it’s back to being conducted in-person on Georgetown University’s campus. 


It is a 3-day long event. Backed by tech giant sponsors like Google, Salesforce, and Slack, this hackathon aims to challenge its participants to innovate hardware and software solutions that target real-world issues. There are a number of tracks, and you get to choose the one you want to submit your project on. Once selected, you can start working with your team on it. If your project manages to achieve one of the top 3 spots, you bag handsome goodie prizes. 


Apart from this, Hoya Hacks is also a great networking platform. You can send your resume to the team if you want sponsors like Google and Slack to reach out to you in the future for exciting opportunities. 


To participate, you must register as an individual and, if selected, form a team of 2-4 members in their Discord server. You can learn more about the rules here.


Location: Georgetown University Campus

Program dates: January 26th - January 28th (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: 

  • High school students above the legal age of majority in their country of residence.

  • Should not be the residents of Brazil, Quebec, Cuba, Iran, Syria, Crimea, or North Korea.


A hackathon that boasts of inviting over 600 applications every year, participating in DeveloperWeek can make for a solid addition to your CV due to its highly selective nature.


The theme of this hackathon revolves around solving real-world problems through innovative tech inventions. That means, you and your team might be asked to create applications, hardware, or software that addresses a particular issue. While this helps you gain hands-on coding experience, you also develop crucial skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication, and critical thinking.


Every team project is evaluated on three criteria - concept, progress, and feasibility. Toward the end of the event, whichever team performs the best on these metrics is declared the winner. As the event is backed by eminent sponsors like Oracle, Red Hat, and Codacy, table toppers receive a handsome cash prize of $12,500, along with goodies like the Amazon Echo. 


Location: Virtual and In-person (Oakland Convention Center)

Program dates: February 5th - February 23rd (Virtual); February 22nd - February 23rd (In-person) [tentatively]

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Applicants must be 18 years or older.


A student-run hackathon for novice coding enthusiasts, PennApps is one of the most reputed hackathons in the US with multiple past editions. As a result, it attracts thousands of applications every year from students within the country and other regions like Canada, England, India, and more. Therefore, if you wish to get accepted, you must demonstrate a keen interest along with some basic coding knowledge. 


PennApps hackathon lasts for 2 days and is conducted over the weekend - so you have maximum flexibility when it comes to time and schedule. Generally, students are expected to work in teams (of not more than 4 members), and the project topics range from website development, mobile applications, drones, etc. 


The best team with the best project stands a chance to win a handsome cash prize and other perks from the sponsors. However, even if you're a total beginner, applying to this hackathon is recommended. PennApps’ hacker community’s exceptional mentorship and teamwork approach proves fruitful, not only in instilling these hard skills but also in developing critical thinking ability and collaboration skills. 


Coming to the application, preference is given to applicants with GitHub profiles, links, project descriptions, or previous hackathon experience. Moreover, if you're a Penn student, you can apply, and your application will automatically be accepted into the hackathon!


Location: University of Pennsylvania Campus

Program dates: September 8th - September 10th (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: High school/college/university students above the age of 15.


If you’re a computer geek who is also equally fascinated by blockchain and Web3, TRON DAO HackaTRON can prove to be ideal for you. Organized by TRON - a blockchain-based digital platform - this hackathon synthesizes coding and Web3 to foster a coming-age generation of developers.


Even if you are new to these terms, by participating in the hackathon, you can familiarize yourself with the Web3 world under the auspices of seasoned experts and professionals. 


There are a total of six tracks in TRON DAO HackaTRON - Web3, DeFi, NFT, GameFi, Builder, and Eco-Friendly. You can submit your project on any of these tracks and stand a chance to win an exciting cash prize from a pool of $500,000! That’s not all. Winners also get listed on Huobi and TRON DAO ventures.


You can also take part in workshops and seminars conducted by notable names in the crypto world, like Valkyrie, Binance Custody, Mirana, etc. To learn more about the event, tap here.


Location: Virtual

Program dates: February 1st - June 1st (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: 

  • Anyone above the legal age of majority in their country of residence.

  • Should not be the residents of Brazil, Quebec, Cuba, Iran, Syria, Crimea, or North Korea.

  • Teams and organizations can also participate.


HackSwift is a hackathon for beginners, especially those still in school. So, if you’re a computer science student on the hunt for something that boosts your college SOP and showcases your creativity and knowledge, this is it.


The sole aim of this hackathon is to educate students about the future of technology in a semi-competitive atmosphere. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or an expert; you can participate and walk away with more than just an accolade. 


As for the participation, you can either do that solo or bring along a team of 2-6 individuals. Hackathon topics and prizes are yet to be disclosed. So, keep an eye on HackSwift’s official website for all updates. 


Apart from the hackathon, HackSwift also offers several courses, workshops, and mentorship opportunities from industry experts. This highlights the stunning plethora of learning and networking opportunities you can avail yourself of as a participant. 


Location: Online

Program dates: March 16th - March 18th (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: High school students in grades 9-12.


BNL Open Hackathon is conducted by the OpenACC Organization. The main aim of this event is to enable researchers and scientists to upgrade their GPUs, CPUs, and other similar data architecture projects under the mentorship of seasoned experts. However, it’s also equally beginner-friendly.


Even if you have no demonstrated experience in parallel programming or GPU skills, you can still participate in the Open Hackathon. The event runs for four days over the course of two weeks, and participants are expected to work in teams of 3-6 members. The hackathon currently accepts projects on two tracks only - Artificial Intelligence (AI) and High Performance (HPU). You can choose your track and submit a project on it.


Apart from immersing themselves in a competitive learning environment, participants also get a chance to gain skills and dive deep into the world of computer science and technology. So, if you lack the expertise, the Open Hackathon conducts workshops and also has a rich library of resources to get you started. 


Although it's open to everyone to apply, priority is given to BNL-affiliated scientists and their collaborators. 


Location: Online

Program dates: August 15th - August 24th (tentatively)

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Applicants must be 13 years or older (16 or older if the event takes place in Europe).


Virtual CodeDay is a fun hackathon conducted online all over the globe. Attracting participants between the age of 13-25, this event is exclusively designed for beginners who want to explore the world of computers and coding.


The best part about Virtual CodeDay is its vast scope. Whether you have a knack for coding or not, you can participate and collaborate with fellow students to create apps, games, digital art - literally anything. That’s not all. You also get to retain the rights of your project. This really comes in handy when creating a portfolio. 


To participate in the event, you can go solo or form a team of 1-6 members from their Discord community. In fact, Virtual CodeDay is also supportive of cross-border collaboration. This implies that if you have a foreign friend who’s equally enthusiastic about all things coding, you can work with them, too. 


Location: Virtual (Discord)

Program dates: Varies

Cost: Free

Eligibility: Applicants must be 13 years or older.


Additionally, you can also work on independent research in AI, through Veritas AI's Fellowship Program!


Veritas AI focuses on providing high school students who are passionate about the field of AI a suitable environment to explore their interests. The programs include collaborative learning, project development, and 1-on-1 mentorship. 


The AI Fellowship program will have students pursue their own independent AI research project. Students work on their own individual research projects over a period of 12-15 weeks and can opt to combine AI with any other field of interest. In the past, students have worked on research papers in the field of AI & medicine, AI & finance, AI & environmental science, AI & education, and more! You can find examples of previous projects here


If you are passionate about research in cybersecurity or computer science, you could also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students that I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper. 


Image Source: NASA Space Apps Challenge Logo


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