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Title: What Happens to All These Hackathon Projects?: Identifying Factors to Promote Hackathon Project Continuation
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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1 to 26
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. The National Science Foundation (NSF) 2018 Materials and Data Science Hackathon (MATDAT18) took place at the Residence Inn Alexandria Old Town/Duke Street, Alexandria, VA over the period May 30–June 1, 2018. This three-day collaborative “hackathon” or “datathon” brought together teams of materials scientists and data scientists to collaboratively engage materials science problems using data science tools. The materials scientists brought a diversity of problems ranging from inorganic material bandgap prediction to acceleration of ab initio molecular dynamics to quantification of aneurysm risk from blood hydrodynamics. The data scientists contributed tools and expertise in areas such as deep learning, Gaussian process regression, and sequential learning with which to engage these problems. Participants lived and worked together, collaboratively “hacked” for several hours per day, delivered introductory, midpoint, and final presentations and were exposed to presentations and informal interactions with NSF personnel. Social events were organized to facilitate interactions between teams. The primary outcomes of the event were to seed new collaborations between materials and data scientists and generate preliminary results. A separate competitive process enabled participants to apply for exploratory funding to continue work commenced at the hackathon. Anonymously surveyed participants reported a high level of satisfaction with the event, with 100% of respondents indicating that their team will continue to work together into the future and 91% reporting intent to submit a white paper for exploratory funding. 
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  2. Hackathons are events where people who are not normally collocated converge for a few days to write code together. Hackathons, it seems, are everywhere. We know that long- term collocation helps advance technical work and facilitate enduring interpersonal relationships, but can similar benefits come from brief, hackathon-style collocation? How do participants spend their time preparing, working face-to- face, and following through these brief encounters? Do the activities participants select suggest a tradeoff between the social and technical benefits of collocation? We present results from a multiple-case study that suggest the way that hackathon-style collocation advances technical work varies across technical domain, community structure, and expertise of participants. Building social ties, in contrast, seems relatively constant across hackathons. Results from different hackathon team formation strategies suggest a tradeoff between advancing technical work and building social ties. Our findings have implications for technology support that needs to be in place for hackathons and for understanding the role of brief interludes of collocation in loosely-coupled, geographically distributed work. 
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