DENVILLE, NJ -- One hundred and seventy (170) students from nothern New Jersey gathered for the fifth annual Hackathon held in the gymnasium of the Morris County School of Technology (MCST) in Denville on Nov 9.

Hackathon is a coding event in which seventh through 12th grade students become “hackers” and allow their imaginations guide them to develop an idea, which may include their own computer apps, video games, networks and websites. Teams of students work collaboratively to make these ideas come to fruition. Engineers from Picatinny Arsenal serve as judges to determine who has the best "hack."

This year, MCST's Connor McDermid, Frank Gomes, Tejas Mehta and Mario DiSanza took first place. Known as “hackSugar,” the team created a secure messaging application that utilized military-grade encryption and was compatible with any short message service network. The sophomores received $80 Visa gift cards.

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Second place went to seniors Ivan Galakhov from Stuyvesant High School and Yash Parikh, from Hillsborough High School, who each received a $60 Visa gift card. Named “Biased,” the duo created an application that analyzed content from Twitter to detect political bias.

“The Fighting Mongooses” came in third place, receiving $50 Visa gift cards. Seniors Eric Nelson and Kyle Donohue and freshmen Vedant Sonani and Dylan Kelly from Rutherford High School developed an algorithm that removed the background of an image.

“Hackathon is an amazing opportunity to work toward a project,” said Mehta, of Roxbury.

“All the teachers at Vo-Tech are here to help foster us into something bigger. They make us work diligently and manage our time.”

“It’s nice to choose what problem you want to tackle,” said Rutherford’s Nelson.

“It’s easy to come up with an idea. It’s fun to be in this kind of race!”

“Hackathon is a great experience,” said Humna Sultan, a sophomore from Parsippany, who has attended the event for three years.

Sultan and her team created an interactive, tech-based factory simulator that helps people learn the proper balance of generating profits while protecting the environment.

 “It’s important to have middle schoolers here too, so they can stay involved in technology and different events in their communities. We get the opportunity to collaborate and do something significant.”

“Hackathon has always been great for the kids,” said MCST computer science teacher Steven Hendricks.

“A lot of these student are meeting each other for the first time, but they make really great teams. It’s very stimulating and it encourages them to be creative.”

To learn more about Hackathon, visit the event’s website at


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