As educators work to teach their students the skills necessary for success, educators face a difficult problem: teaching students how to solve problems they have never seen before. Engineering problems are always changing, and while solutions can typically be found, some students find themselves feeling unprepared in these situations. Often, students resolve this concern by participating in internships or finding other ways to obtain real world experience. Some students have begun to attend coding marathons known as hackathons.
In the past decade, hackathons have been on the rise, and many students in technology degrees such as computer science (CS) and software engineering are eagerly throwing themselves into hackathons. Some say it gives them more opportunities than their degree does in the form of learning and networking (Warner & Guo, 2017). Students at these 36-hour coding marathons are not maliciously breaking into systems such as banks. Instead, they are developing technical solutions to problems they choose to address (Briscoe & Mulligan, 2013). However, few understand what other impacts hackathons have. Even less understand how hackathons impact students. Some work has begun to address knowledge transfer within hackathons, specifically how students are sharing and receiving knowledge (Blinded for Review). However, there is a missing link in understanding what knowledge students bring into hackathons and share with other participants, and how students use software process in their hackathon projects.
This pilot study looks at a unique group of students from [Blinded University] in the Software Engineering program. Students in this program have been taught to apply skills learned through project-based courses with the intent of also learning how to contextually apply knowledge to solve different problems (Gary, 2015). Hackathons present a potentially familiar environment for these students though shorter in nature. The projects these students develop in each environment will allow for an exploration into a selection of skillsets software engineers bring to hackathons, and the processes used in their projects both consciously and subconsciously.
This work will inspire a series of research following knowledge transfer within hackathons as more domains such as engineering, math, science, and art join the event and shape development processes. Though motivational studies on hackathons are thorough, considering how these motivations play into the projects developed at hackathons may lend to a deeper understanding of student experience, and potential career-defining moments that can be leveraged by university courses.
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