“So…that’s like where people camp out with their laptops in someone’s basement hacking into websites, right?”

I’ll be honest, when I was first told zipperHQ was helping with a hackathon, that’s literally what I thought it was! After getting a pretty good laugh from my colleague, he was kind enough to “bring me into the light” and save me from my (obviously comical) ignorance.


But unless you’re in the tech industry, or studying coding or robotics, you’re probably asking the same things as I was: what is a hackathon, what do you do at one, who attends them, and why are they important?

What is a hackathon?

In a nutshell, a hackathon is a 24-36 hour invention marathon. It’s an event where a bunch of people, usually students, get together to build “whatever they want” from the ground up in a high energy environment. As a result, there’s a wide range of really cool and innovative software and hardware inventions created in just a day or two: everything from apps that can accurately diagnose the seriousness of a concussion to robots that look, behave and sound just like real pets.

HackBeanpot is a nonprofit founded in 2012 by a group of students from universities in the Boston area who aim to make technical experience and knowledge accessible to anyone who’s interested. The organization hosts an annual hackathon, entirely student-led, with participation from community experts and sponsors as judges.

What happens at a HackBeanpot hackathon?

The whole idea of a hackathon is to come with an idea (or join in with someone else’s), build that idea with a team, and do something cool with it. At HackBeanpot’s hackathon, students spend 24-36 hours building their ideas, engaging in fun activities (hello, 2am Origami sesh!), and networking with attendees. “It’s a unique, supportive environment where students get to engage with a community of people passionate about similar interests and further their learning and careers through fun events!,” said Caroline Liu, VP of HackBeanpot. The event will culminate with students demoing their finished projects via video submissions using the ZipperHQ platform for the panel of judges before a fun awards ceremony. 

All the smart kids are doing it...literally!

This year’s 9th annual student-run hackathon, being conducted in a virtual event format due to the pandemic, has over 250 students registered so far. “Most of the participants are from the Boston-area, but because this year’s event is virtual, it opened it up to a wider audience,” said Liu. “We’ve got students registered from across the country this year. Even a few international students have signed up, which is so exciting!”

Who attends hackathons?

Hackathons usually attract programmers who like working on collaborative projects. HackBeanpot’s annual hackathon event is open to all students (high school through graduate level), and is focused primarily on beginners and learning new things as opposed to some of the more competitive events out there. 

“We really emphasize the learning process of a hackathon. When looking at students’ projects, judges consider the idea and impact behind a project just as much as the final project itself.” – Caroline Liu, VP of HackBeanpot

Why are hackathons important?

One of the biggest benefits of attending a hackathon is learning new skills and obtaining new knowledge. Hackathons like HackBeanpot enable students to learn a ton of new hands-on skills in a very short period of time while connecting with community members, mentors and receive other resources they may not otherwise have had access to inside the classroom.

ZipperHQ is proud to help sponsor HackBeanpot 2021. Other sponsors of the event include Drift, Power Advocate, Upstatement, Facebook, Northeastern University – Khoury College of Computer Sciences, Glimpse and Bada Bean Bada Boom. Get updates and learn about the winning inventions by following HackBeanpot on Instagram (@hackbeanpot), Facebook, Medium and Twitter.


Good luck to this year’s HackBeanpot hackers! We can’t wait to see what you create!