Attracting non-STEM Majors to Hackathons

Attracting non-STEM Majors to Hackathons

Attracting a more diverse skillset directly improves the quality of the hacks created at your event, offering new perspectives and initiatives. However, diversifying the degree pool of the attendants of a hackathon is one of the most difficult challenges organizers face. This talk focuses on framing workshops and activities in such a way that includes more majors and disciplines in the hacking process than the default computer science and software engineering candidates. By holding a few workshops and talks leading up to your event, you can improve attendance numbers and attendant diversity.



August 24, 2019


  1. 2.

    Why workshops? • Hackathons don’t initially seem like a place

    for non-computing majors. We need a way to break that stigma • We can use workshops before and during events to establish two things: ◦ Cultivate skills that could be used in a hackathon ◦ Show that pre-existing skills (that are not coding-based) can be useful at a hackathon
  2. 3.

    Why non-CS majors? • Enrich non-programming pieces of the hackathon

    experience ◦ Some examples: ▪ Graphic Design ▪ Presentation to judges ▪ Idea brainstorming
  3. 4.

    Other types of diversity • Reaching out to organizations that

    advocate for diversity in STEM is good, but they may already attend your events • Tapping into the greater academic community ◦ Workshops throughout the year ▪ Give non-CS students application development tools ▪ Recruit through professors in other departments • EXTRA CREDIT ▪ Other major-focused student organizations • Incentivizing
  4. 5.

    1. Selecting a topic • Search for diverse talents within

    your organizing committee ◦ Graphic Design, data analysis, start-up pitches, etc. • Straddle the line between technical and approachable ◦ Data Analysis with R ◦ Excel activities
  5. 6.

    2. Planning and execution • Presentation is about personal style

    • Shy away from coder-specific language ◦ What’s an IDE? ◦ What’s a function? ◦ Declare vs. define a variable. • Don’t hold questions until the end
  6. 7.

    Conclusion • Workshops can make hackathons more inviting • Should

    be about nurturing old skills as much as cultivating new ones • Non-STEM attendees have a clear benefit to the health of the hackathon • Don’t forget about your primary audience, programmers • Search for diverse talents in your organization and apply them to a hackathon setting