I've been on a Startup Weekend kick this past year. I've attended the 3rd Philly Startup Weekend, the first Philly Health Startup Weekend, the 4th Philly Startup Weekend, and the Lehigh Valley Startup Weekend, where my team working on an idea I pitched took 3rd place. I had a blast at each one.
I also attended the Lehigh Valley Hackathon, where I took first and tied for fan favorite. I've also had the pleasure of helping to plan and participate in 2 hackathons (called Hack'd) at the place I work: MeetMe.
My projects have included Autistic Touch and Special Places, apps centered around children with autism, or their families, shopping services, a music-profile site for bands, and then WeGotYourSite, a service for businesses that lets you use Facebook as your CMS for your website.
I've continued to work on WeGotYourSite after the startup weekend. The team is still active, and we hope to actually make this work. Sure, there are challenges, and but the basic premise was sound, and we are making good progress.
These events have done a lot for me. They force you into positions that are outside your comfort zone. You are forced to pitch in front of everyone, you need to form groups with people you don't know, and you need to look beyond just the technical side of things. You need to validate the desires of your customers. Are you building something people would pay for? You need to understand how you would go about getting those customers. You need to understand what's important, and what can wait. You come to understand the importance of having a simple message. You start seeing all the problems that exist in this world, and what we can do to get there.
Whenever I have a problem, I don't see a problem, but instead, a potential pain-point in need of a solution.