Hackathons bring developers, artists and designers together around a shared challenge: ideate, plan and create an application in a highly constrained time frame. A way to socialize, solve problems, and strengthen soft and hard skills, hackathons have grown tremendously in popularity in the last half decade. Despite this growth, it has been noted that females do not participate in hackathons with the same frequency as males. Some theorize that the hackathon culture is intimidating, does not appeal to women, or that it acts to amplify pre-existing cultural biases in computing. In this paper we introduce an alternative format for hackathons to address these issues. Think Global Hack Local (TGHL) is a non-competitive, community-based hackathon that connects non-profit organizations with student developers. Students donate a weekend to solve problems that these organizations otherwise lack the resources to solve. To date, there have been two TGHL hackathons, and we have observed many interesting divergences within the culture of TGHL in comparison to other hackathons. Response has been positive, and nearly all of them indicate that they would do it again. By adopting some of these ideas, we believe that hackathons can become an environment that is more inclusive and fun for all.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit



A. Decker, K. Eiselt and K. Voll, "Understanding and improving the culture of hackathons: Think global hack local," Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2015. 32614 2015. IEEE, El Paso, TX, 2015, pp. 1-8. doi: 10.1109/FIE.2015.7344211 © 2015 IEEE. Personal use of this material is permitted. Permission from IEEE must be obtained for all other uses, in any current or future media, including reprinting/republishing this materia for advertising or promotional purposes, creating new collective works, for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or reuse of any copyrighted component of this work in other works.

Document Type

Conference Paper

Department, Program, or Center

School of Interactive Games and Media (GCCIS)


RIT – Main Campus