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Student programmers compete for top prizes in 24-hour TCNJ hackathon

Participants in TCNJ’s Hackathon 2024 recently pulled the ultimate all-nighter.

But have no fear — no real hacking occurred. Rather, students from local high schools and colleges used the time to collaborate on conceptualizing, programming, and building a software or hardware project in just 24 hours. 

More than 140 entrants gathered in the Brower Student Center for the event, hosted by HackTCNJ. The hackathon spanned two days and included time for team building, project work, technical workshops, free food, and lots of caffeine — no coding expertise required.

The common goal: to bring tech-based ideas to life and compete for prizes from gaming monitors to gift cards.

student sitting next to a laptop displaying a pie chart
Yarden Mach codes during TCNJ’s hackathon.

Yarden Mach ’23, a political science major, won the “Best Social Impact” award for his project, Save Your Muni, which aims to make sustainability data more accessible for New Jersey municipalities. His work at Sustainable Jersey inspired the hack.

“You can get graphs of electricity usage by sector, greenhouse gas emission sources, and miles traveled by vehicle type,” he explained. “The data allows municipalities to understand where they can improve their sustainability metrics and reduce their energy consumption.” 

Mach used Python, a general-purpose programming language, for this project. He learned it as part of the 24-hour challenge.

“When I started the project, I thought I had no chance of completing it,” he said. “But the more I wrote, the more confident I became.” 

Computer science major Joe Petrecca ’25, and physics majors Connor McNeil ’24, and Skyler Keyek ’26 won the “Best Creative Hack” award for their micro-learning platform called SnapShot. The team based their app on the idea that quick exposure to a topic before hearing it in a lecture can change the way a student learns, for the better.

The app allows educators to upload small portions of their upcoming lectures to introduce the material to students before class begins.

Major League Hacking, the official student hackathon league, sponsored the event. Each year, MLH powers these weekend-long invention competitions to inspire innovation, cultivate communities, and teach computer science skills to the next generation of technology leaders and entrepreneurs.

— Corinne Coakley ’25