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HackMIT's Blueprint 2024 - 10 Tips to Help You Win

On our blog, we’ve detailed several STEM competitions, as we believe that participating in such competitions in high school not only enhances your technical skills but also significantly boosts your college application. As a dedicated high schooler aiming for a brighter educational and professional future, it is in your interest to participate in the best competitions you’re able to find and are eligible for, and prove your dedication, problem-solving abilities, and passion for the field. Today’s blog focuses on one excellent opportunity, HackMIT’s Blueprint.

What is HackMIT's Blueprint?

HackMIT's Blueprint is a unique weekend-long “learnathon” and hackathon exclusively for high school students hosted at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It's designed to cater to all skill levels, from first-time coders to veteran hackers, offering an unparalleled opportunity to learn from MIT students and create innovative projects. The essence of Blueprint lies in its dual focus: learning (the "learnathon" aspect) through workshops and hands-on sessions, and applying (the "hackathon" part) this newfound knowledge to build something cool.

HackMIT, the parent event, has been MIT’s investment in developing innovation and creativity in undergraduate students since its inception in 2013. It has evolved into an annual gathering that sees thousands of participants from around the globe, engaging in developing projects that range from novel mobile apps to complex machine learning models. Both HackMIT and Blueprint aim to foster an environment where you can challenge yourself, explore new technologies, and push the boundaries of what's possible​.

Is it prestigious?

HackMIT itself and Blueprint are of course notable for their affiliation with MIT, one of the leading tech institutions worldwide. This association alone elevates the event's prestige, attracting talented participants from across the globe. Competing in Blueprint not only provides a platform for showcasing your skills among the best but also for learning from them. The diverse and complex projects developed during the hackathon, coupled with the interaction with industry professionals, offer an exclusive advantage to all participants. HackMIT is sponsored by such notable organizations as the CIA, Google, MIT’s Energy Initiative, Modal, Backflip AI, Rockstar Games, and NordVPN, and participating in Blueprint provides you invaluable exposure to these firms.

Who is eligible for BluePrint 2024 and how do you apply?

HackMIT has designed Blueprint to be accessible to all comers. It is open to all high school students, regardless of experience or nationality, and specifically encourages participation from first-time coders to experienced hackers. While it is a team event, you can enroll as an individual and be matched up with a team later. It is also completely free to enroll!

Note that it is a strictly in-person event, so you will need to be able to travel to the MIT campus in Massachusetts. 

While the application for 2024 closed on February 5th, the process typically involves an online application form where you showcase your interest and previous experience in technology and innovation​​.

How is Blueprint 2024 structured?

Blueprint is divided into three distinct events:

  1. BP Week: This is a 5-day precursor event held from February 26th to March 1st. It is meant to provide a head start on the main Blueprint event, featuring plenty of tech talks, mini-events, and most importantly team formation events.

  2. Learnathon: The first half of the main Blueprint event, held on March 2nd. As the name suggests, on this day you will be focusing primarily on learning. There will be workshops taught by MIT students and industry professionals, specialized tech talks, and engagement sessions. From programming fundamentals, to web programming, game development, and other dedicated STEM topics.

  3. Hackathon: The second half and the “hacking” part of the event, taking place on March 3rd. Now that you are ready with your team and spent the last 24 hours upskilling and learning, it is time to put those skills to the test. You and your team will now build a project from scratch, while working directly with MIT mentors, and finally demo the project to a panel of experts.

Within these events, you will be working on one of the four following tracks offered by Blueprint:

  1. Start Hacking: This track is intended for beginners with little to no exposure to coding. It is taught in Python and you will be provided the necessary resources to complete your Hackathon project. If you’re new to programming but are keen on learning website development, mobile apps, and the practical application of programming in general, then this track is for you.

  2. Web Dev: This track has options for both beginners as well as advanced participants. Here you will be taught the skill set to develop web apps from scratch. The Beginner Web Dev track is meant to get you familiar with the basics of web development, while Advanced Web Dev is meant to enable you to build more complex and interactive web applications. If you’re passionate about web design and the tools and thought-process that go into it, this is the track you should be going for.

  3. Game Dev: If you have a creative turn of mind alongside coding ability, this is the best track in which to apply it. Here you will be fully designing a game, from ideation to playable product. You will get to use several open source tools and frameworks along with your own unleashed creativity to come up with an original game idea and code it from scratch. If you love game design and have even minimal exposure to coding, then this is the track for you.

  4. Hardware: This track sits at the intersection of electrical engineering and computer science, and is a great pick if you are interested in how modern computing hardware actually implements and enables coding, and how that hardware itself is utilized in code. You’ll be learning the basics of C and the usage of Arduino software, a commonly used open-source electronics platform, and then create a basic electrical circuit used in modern-day computing.

10 tips to help you win

  1. Attend BP Week: While BP Week is an optional event, you should strongly consider attending it because the workshops, seminars and interactions will greatly enhance your learning and therefore your chances of winning.

  2. Attend the Learnathon: Again, similar to BP Week, it is optional which of the Learnathon or Hackathon you want to attend, or you can attend both. Our recommendation is that if you’re seriously considering attempting the Hackathon, then you should definitely attend the Learnathon too, for the same reasons as listed above - developing a stronger grasp on core programming fundamentals and learning directly from MIT mentors.

  3. Be strategic in project selection: Choose a problem that's impactful and aligns with your team's skills, while also being reasonably approachable in the short timeframe of the workshop. It’s a bonus if you choose something that you’re at least partially familiar with, as time is of the essence.

  4. Be equally strategic in project planning: Work with your mentor to draft a clear plan of action, breaking down tasks and setting milestones. You’ll only have limited time to attempt your project, and the more coherent your effort is, the better your chances of success.

  5. Simplicity is king: Aim for a minimal viable product that solves the problem efficiently. You don’t need an absolutely perfect product, what you need is to utilize the provided resources and newly learned skills effectively to create your targeted project.

  6. Use the many resources available: Each track on the Blueprint website has a variety of resources and links to important tools and open-source libraries that are critical to help you master it. These should be your first go-to points in approaching the competition.

  7. Work with your mentor(s): The key to success in the Hackathon, working with limited resources in a time crunch scenario, is by having an experienced hand guide your approach. This is why you are provided mentors for your project, and why you should work with them to the best of your ability. From project selection to project planning to team task division, all of these are areas where your mentor can significantly improve your efficiency.

  8. Present your project well: Prepare a compelling narrative around your project for the judges. Even if the project is a minimum viable product, what is important is the idea and the concept behind it - is it relevant? Is it scalable? Is it efficient?

  9. Network: Engage with peers, mentors, and judges to broaden your perspectives. Not only is it good for your academic future and your career, it can also spark some excellent ideas for your project.

  10. Keep your chin up: Stay motivated and resilient, regardless of the challenges you face. Remember that at the end of the day, the biggest value of Blueprint is the learning, not the winning.

Participating in HackMIT's Blueprint can serve as a stepping stone toward a future in technology and innovation. We hope these tips will help you set yourself up for long-term success and growth in the STEM fields.

One other option - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you’re interested in pursuing research in computer science and related fields, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students 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: HackMIT logo



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