oSTEM Conference Hackathon

Each year oSTEM hosts an annual hackathon as a fun technical challenge with awards and prizes, but it's also a great chance to make new friends and network with others in similar fields!  Normally we partner with a local LGBTQ+ nonprofit in our host city, but since our 2020 conference is entirely virtual, we're switching it up as well by focusing on oSTEM National use-cases and data sets.  We're looking for enthusiastic students and mentors with skills in software development who are interested in using technology and engineering to solve problems for the queer community. We encourage our teams to develop functional prototypes that could potentially be developed into fully working applications or solutions one day.

This year our hackathon will be entirely virtual!  So while we won't have the benefits of working together in person, this has also allowed us to plan some new innovations that may more than make up for the lack of physical presence.


How does the Hackathon work?

At the hackathon, we form small teams of student-led groups (balancing experience and skill, and sometimes pairing with professional mentors from industry) to build an app, website, game, or other technology that solves a challenge related to a real-world need for our partner organization. Teams will be formed a few days before the main conference and work at their own discretion remotely on selected challenge-sets we present.  At the end of the "hacking" duration, teams demo of their solution to a panel of judges. Awards will be presented during a main conference plenary session with an assortment of prizes provided by our sponsors.



  • Wednesday - 11/11

    • 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM PT (12:00 PM - 3:00 PM ET): Hackathon Kickoff
      • Welcome, Introductions, Ground Rules
      • Sponsor Presentation: JP Morgan Chase
      • Team Formation and Platform Logistics
      • Challenge Presentation and Judging Criteria
      • Break to work/hack/socialize
    • 12:00 PM - 10:00 PM PT (3:00 PM - 1:00 AM ET): Hacking
  • Thursday - 11/12

    • 8:00 AM - 10:00 PM PT (11:00 AM - 1:00 AM ET): Hacking
    • 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM PT (7:00 PM - 9:00 PM ET): Hackathon Check-in and Q&A session
  • Friday - 11/13

    • 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM PT (11:00 AM - 6:00 PM ET): Hacking
    • 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM PT (6:00 PM - 9:00 PM ET): Demos and Wrap-up
      • Recruitment session with JP Morgan Chase
      • Team Demos and Presentations
      • Thank you and wrap-up
  • Saturday - 11/14

    • 10:00 AM - 11:45 AM PT (1:00 PM - 2:45 PM ET): Winners announced during the main conference plenary session

(We intend to provide a flexible 2-3 day window for teams to work and code, but this time is fully at each team's discretion in terms of how much time commitment is needed to produce a winning prototype.  During "Hacking" hours listed above, the oSTEM Technology Team will be staffing volunteers and be available to assist or answer any questions participants have--but this does not preclude teams from working outside of these listed hours.)

Frequently Asked Questions


What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is an event where people get together and collaborate in teams to develop new ideas into realities. Hackathons usually involve developing technology like apps, websites, or other types of programs from scratch. Individuals of various levels of coding experience from novice to expert are encouraged to join!

Who can join the hackathon?
Anyone can register for the hackathon but we strongly encourage oSTEM student members to lead and participate in the teams! We're also looking for professionals of all skill levels to be hackathon coaches and mentors to work alongside our student teams.  Just register for the conference using the link above and be sure to select the hackathon add-on option.

How much time does the hackathon take?
This year the hackathon is 100% virtual and largely meant to be worked on with your small team directly.  Keep in mind that the hackathon precedes the actual main conference and requires a time commitment.  You should plan for a few hours of team formation, Q&A, sponsorship chats, optional social time, and at least ~20-30 min demonstration time with your team.  We anticipate we will have a 2-3 day window for teams to work, but this time is fully at each team's discretion in terms of how much time commitment is needed to produce a winning prototype.  We want you to have a valuable experience and win some cool prizes, but we also don't expect you to code 24x7 and be too exhausted to enjoy the conference.

How much does the hackathon cost?
The hackathon only requires your time and hard work - we will not charge you for participating.  And our generous sponsors take care of all the logistical aspects and prizes for the event!

What do I need to bring to participate?
oSTEM will provide the virtual platforms, video conferencing technology, and real-time messaging systems for you to interact with your teams and coordinate your work remotely.  You should have a laptop, desktop, or mobile device with a camera and microphone/speakers/headset that will let you work with your team to both build and present your solution to the judges.

What platforms will we use?
oSTEM is providing all conference logistical platforms including WebEx for meetings/sessions, Slack for real-time communication and team collaboration, and GitHub for source control. We are also planning to introduce a new option of a "virtual space" called Gather that will let us socialize and interact with each other a little more than we otherwise could with just video and chat software. We're excited to see how this goes!

I am a professional part of a company/organization, how can I get involved?
You can participate in the hackathon yourself by helping mentor and assist students in creating their prototypes.  Our teams really value getting to work alongside mentors and professionals who work in product teams for a day-job and we'd love to plug you in to a team.  Just register for the hackathon normally and once we have the student teams assigned, we'll take a survey of our mentors and get you paired up with a team. As our hackathon's are student-led, we ask that you merely advise and consult--while giving the students the space and coaching to lead the team and drive their product solutioning.

Do I need technical skills to participate?
You should be basically "techie" in order to enjoy the full experience at the hackathon, but you do not need to be skilled in any particular technology area.  We will form small teams that prioritize engineers, designers, and programmers as the core of the group.  But we need project managers, artists, organizers, writers, testers, and presenters as well.  If you have any of these types of skills and want to have a great time building something new with a team of geeks, then the hackathon is for you!