How to prepare for a Hackathon with IBM Cloud?

Today I want to address a common situation for developers: You want to participate in a hackathon, and you plan to use IBM Cloud, but you have never used it before. How to prepare?
My motivation to write this: I did support the hacknext hackathon from 7-9 March 2019 in Munich as a coach. ( and now I will support the  hackbay hackathon from 4-5 April 2019 in Nuernberg  as a coach.

IBM Cloud provides a huge amount of different services, runtimes, and so on.
BTW (by the way): From my point of view, one of the most important objectives in a hackathon is, running your created application live! To do this you need a runtime 😉

Let’s start with the basics

Let’s get a basic understanding of what the major areas in IBM Cloud are and where to find how to’s?

IBM Cloud offers a good entry point with the getting started page , which is organized into these different topics:

Free online trainings

I want to highlight the
Here you get free online education on pure technical or IBM Cloud related topics.

An awesome start into IBM Cloud is the training IBM Cloud Essentials, it take approximately 3 hours.

A short impression of


What is relevant for developers?

If you are a developer, the IBM Developer with IBM Coder Program is great option for:

Quick and easy start at the hackathon

  • Runtimes

The most relevant topic to run your app as fast as possible in IBM Cloud are the runtimes.  You can choose runtimes from three major open source based technologies:  Cloud Foundry, Serverless or Kubernetes.

I like Cloud Foundry the most for a quick start at a hackathon. You instantiate one of the common build packs like Node.JS or Python in minutes and have a app with https and a free unique url available on the internet.

Create a Cloud Foundry App in IBM Cloud.


  • Services

As you notice, there is a huge amount of services available on IBM Cloud. From my perspective the easiest way to start and to integrate state-of-the-art AI services is to use the Watson Assistant service. This is the underlying service for each potential AI user interaction in your application. You can find a quick setup in the Watson Assistant Basic Starter Kit.

Access the sample Watson Assistant Basic Starter Kit application.


How to setup Watson Assistant Basic Starter Kit on IBM Cloud? 6 min youtube video.

  • Prototyping

I love to use the open source developer tool Node-RED , for prototyping. From my perspective this is the best, most flexible choice to build easy integrations for almost  all web technologies in a hackathon (Web Socket, REST, HTML and so on). To get familiar with Node-RED, just follow the Getting Started page.

Inspect the response of an Watson Assistant instance in Node-RED.


IBM Cloud provides a great and easy way to instantiate Node-RED in minutes with Cloud Foundry Node.JS build pack and Cloudant.

Make the most out of Node-RED for your powerful prototyping on IBM Cloud. I made a short and more detailed youtube video: How to setup the Node-RED Starter package in IBM Cloud?

  • Promo Code?

Usually you will get a promo code from IBM for hackathons. The promo code upgrades the free IBM Lite Account to a trial account where you can use Kubernetes for free. I made a blog post about this. Here is an overview of the different IBM Cloud Account types.

So, if you are a Hacker you can just register yourself at IBM Cloud and start today 😉

I hope this was useful for you and let’s see what’s next?



PS:  By the way, you can use the IBM Cloud for free, if you simply create an IBM Lite account. Here you only need an e-mail address and for more information about IBM Cloud information sources? Take a look into my blog post Usage of information sources for implementations in IBM Cloud.


#IBMDeveloper #CloudFoundry #IBMCloud #Hackathon #IBM4hacknext #NodeRED #WatsonAssistant #PromoCode #IBMCoderProgram



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