Screenshot of the Sticker Storybook app

Hack Midwest Returns to KC — Here’s How to Make the Most of It

James Hart Blog

Hack Midwest, Kansas City’s biggest and best app-building contest, returns on July 21-22, and Alight Analytics is proud to be one of this year’s sponsors.

Hundreds of programmers will compete in this year’s 24-hour event. You’ll find people from all skill levels, from students to hobbyists to working professionals like Caleb Cauthon, lead web engineer at Alight Analytics.

Caleb Cauthon, lead web engineer at Alight AnalyticsA few years ago, Caleb won “Best in Show” at Hack Midwest with his brother and their mother. Their project,, lets users make their own stories with drag-and-drop artwork created by Caleb’s mom.

Thinking about participating in this year’s competition? Then check out Caleb’s advice!

What’s it like to attend Hack Midwest?

It’s a few hundred programmers, all converging into one space, on a Saturday morning. Everybody sets up at their own table, huddling around their computers and coding and eating pizza all day, until 7 or 8. Some people stick around and try to stay up all night, but most go home.

The next morning, everyone gets 5 minutes to present their project to everybody else, and the judges pick the best work.

Why do you enjoy being part of Hack Midwest?

Nobody really cares about winning. It’s about programming, this thing we all love to do.

If you do it right, you come in without all the constraints you have at work about building what someone else wants you to build. Most of the week, we’re all building “businessy” things. At Hack Midwest, you get to be creative. You can say, “I’m going to do something that’s off the wall.”

Screenshot of the Sticker Storybook app

What are the keys to having a good time at Hack Midwest?

I think it’s really key to come up with some kind of concept before you sit down. You need to have a direction before you get there.

Twenty-four hours is not a long time to build something. I wish I had a better analogy, but your eyes will be bigger than your stomach. You start thinking, “I’m going to build something that will change the world.” But you’ve got to finish something in the time allotted. You can’t just start something.

Do you need to show up with your own team? Can you just form a team when you get there?

Most people come with their own team. You don’t have a lot of time, so you need someone you can bounce ideas off and who can help you grow things really fast.

What are the biggest (or most common) mistakes that people make at Hack Midwest?

If you think you can stay up all night and actually write useful code … It might be fun to stay up and hang out with your friends. But you’re probably not going to be able to build much between midnight and 6 a.m.

Alight Analytics is proud to sponsor this year’s Hack Midwest competition. You can learn more about Hack Midwest at this website, and be sure to stop by our booth on the day of the hackathon!