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Hackathons can help you recharge

A sleep-in can be good for your health, but so can tackling a different problem

Hackathons, where you design, prototype or code tech solutions to problems from a Friday night to Sunday night, generally wipe me out. Weekends are usually my recharge time.

But, creatively and intellectually, it’s great to be thrown a problem and told that you’re going to ship a solution in 48 hours whether you like it or not. In a PhD it’s easy to have days or even weeks when you just don’t want to deal with your work; spending a weekend making appreciable progress on something useful that you’re not tied to for the next half-decade is a nice reset and a reminder of what you can do.

Healthhack particularly hit my sweet spot: I got to develop skills that I’m interested in folding into my career stack, and I got to apply them to problems that have obvious social value. Our team prototyped Impulse, an app that lets you talk to your future self:

Impulse went down really well with the judges: we won the Commercial Potential Award, which includes some AWS and Azure credit, some Github subs, and two months of access to the Entry29 coworking space to develop the idea further.

But, more importantly, Healthhack was a great opportunity to make some friends in Canberra’s awesome public health community and to feel inspired about my other side-projects. I treasure lazy weekends, but the feeling of industriousness that I got out of Healthhack stayed with me well after I caught up on sleep.

Now, back to that paper.

James Goldie

PhD student (climate change + health). I also code and build things for fun and for social change.

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