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Recently I had the chance to go as a mentor and judge for a couple of Hackathons. During my time in college, I participated in a lot of hackathons, but this was my first time serving as a mentor or judge.
As a contestant, I believed it was simple for the judges to determine the outcomes or how simple it was for them to give the teams advice. Being on the other side of the table helped me to realize that both sides require the same amount of preparation.
There is a similar sense of anxiety or nervousness on both sides. Developing and pitching your solution properly is the biggest challenge for a contestant while judging your solution based on a fair evaluation is the biggest challenge for a judge.
My primary learnings from the experiences were the following.
The contestants must design a distinctive solution to the problem, while the judges must understand the problem statement, think of all possible solutions, and evaluate using the right technology.
Similarly to how participants need to be prepared to deal with any questions that might come their way during the pitch, mentors need to have answers/suggestions to questions participants might ask.
I realized during the mentoring session that you need to control the developer inside of you. When teams came up and mention bugs/errors they are experiencing, it's tempting to grab the laptop and fix them. However, you need to control yourself and provide them with the right information.
Just as teamwork is required in participation, it is also needed between the judging panel members. An agreement needs to be reached on the evaluation criteria and the scoring system.
Thus there's no need to be intimidated by the evaluator if you're just starting to take part in hackathons. Keep in mind that both parties are under equal pressure, for the participant it is to produce the finest idea and pitch, while the judge is under pressure to render a fair judgment.
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