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Classes begin next week here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and HackIllinois is ramping up its mentor outreach efforts. To that end, we’re encouraging all open source contributors to fill out our HackIllinois 2019 Mentor Interest Form.

Who? Open source contributors to projects big and small
What? A 36-hour student-run open source hackathon that brings together 1000+ students and mentors. Work throughout the event with a small group of students on open source contributions.
When? Friday-Sunday, February 22-24, 2019
Where? The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States
Approximately 150 mi / 250 km from each of Chicago, Illinois; St. Louis, Missouri; and Indianapolis, Indiana
Why? HackIllinois aims to foster education, collaboration, and mentorship within the open source community. Come help students during their first forays into open source, and interact with leaders and other contributors in open source.
How? Just fill out the Mentor Interest Form:

HackIllinois gives students the opportunity to learn something new while also giving back to the open source community that we all love. By showing that open source projects are approachable, HackIllinois is helping get more people into open source which is great for growing the community!
—Tyler Leonhardt, PowerShell, mentor at HackIllinois 2018

What are the commitments and responsibilities of a mentor?

Mentors lead a group of students in addressing issues on and building new open source tools for projects that the mentors contribute to. Unlike at other collegiate hackathons, mentors don’t just support students in fixing bugs here and there; mentors work together with students, guiding them through the open source workflow to make meaningful contributions.

Most importantly, mentors are passionate about open source and helping out new contributors. If that sounds like you, it’s likely you’ll be a great mentor! In the past, we’ve had a wide array of mentors, from creators and maintainers of familiar open source projects, to students and young professionals. If you’re interested in mentoring, just apply!

What sort of contributions have groups made in the past?

In the past, HackIllinois has seen students make contributions to a projects in the areas of JavaScript, Android, Python, Linux, and more! Groups have opened PRs to projects such as PrairieLearn, a problem-driven learning system built at the University of Illinois; Puppeteer, Chrome’s headless node API; and Rust, a systems programming language that’s a favorite amongst developers. As a mentor, you can bring projects that you maintain or contribute to—anything you believe you can guide students through making contributions to.

How many people will I be working with?

Group sizes vary, but we find that the most successful groups have a ratio of 4-6 students per mentor and have 1-3 mentors that come ready with a handful features and fixes for the students to get started on. We’ll work with your preferences for group size and what contributions you have in mind for HackIllinois to match you to students interested in your project.

What are the skill levels of the students?

Although there is a wide range of skill levels, most students are well-versed with writing code for classes or personal projects, but don’t necessarily have familiarity with working in larger codebases or open source workflows (think Git, pull requests). Mentors get to help students become familiar with the open source aspects of development!

What do I get out of attending HackIllinois?

Mentors get to inspire and teach students about open source, helping them to become active members in the community. As a mentor, you would work closely with students to help resolve issues on your projects. Mentors also get to meet leaders and other mentors at the event. Of course, we will also provide food and snacks throughout the weekend, as well as tons of swag!

HackIllinois will reimburse some travel and lodging costs on a case-by-case basis. Please inquire for details.

For more detail on the mentor experience, check out our recent mentor spotlight.

What happens when I fill out this Mentor Interest Form?

We will review submissions, and one of our team members will reach out to you via email to learn more about your projects and answer any questions you may have. The Mentor Interest Form is a way for you to get connected with our team and learn more: there is no commitment to attend the event based on form submission.

I won’t be able to make the dates this year, but I’d like to get updates about other events.

Feel free to fill out the Mentor Interest Form anyway. We can contact you about other opportunities, such as our fall HackNights (smaller events focused around a single project) or HackIllinois in future years.

I think this event would be great for others from my project or at my company!

That’s great! Feel free to share this blog post with others who may be interested in mentoring or shoot us an email at to tell us about projects or companies that would be good fits!

If you think your company would be interested in getting involved, please have your recruiting or technical contacts reach out to us at

What if I have a question that wasn’t answered here?

We love questions! Mentors are the core of the HackIllinois experience and we work closely with each mentor to answer all their questions. Just shoot us an email at and someone on our team will get back to you within 24 hours.

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Justin Yang




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