BMCC Hosts First Hackathon

students at a hack-a-thon

April 11, 2019

More than one hundred Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students, alumni and volunteers participated in the first ever BMCC Hackathon on April 6 in Richard Harris Terrace at 199 Chambers Street. The event, which began at 8:30 a.m. lasted until well past midnight.

The event’s purpose was to inspire BMCC students to work in a collaborative environment to solve real-world problems by familiarizing themselves with current technology and creating needed projects.

The event was sponsored by the BMCC Center for Career Development, Computer Information Systems Department, IMPACT Mentoring Program and BMCC Programming Club as well as industry partners Amazon Web Services(AWS) Alexa, Wolfram Language, Github and Google.

The goal of a typical hackathon is to create usable software or hardware that results in a functioning product by the end of the event. Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used, the operating system an application, an API, or the subject and the demographic group of the programmers.

“We designed our hackathon with BMCC’s Designing for Success and Culture of Care—just for BMCC students and BMCC alumni participants—to promote equity and level the playing ground for our students to thrive and acquire skills for career success,” said Computer Information Systems (CIS) Assistant Professor Mohammad Azhar who was the faculty organizer of the event.

BMCC’s hackathon created an informal learning environment where students had an opportunity to innovate, learn, collaborate, build community, solve a problem and share the solution with the community, he said.

“That contributes to improving student success dramatically,” said Azhar.

After a welcoming speech from Acting Provost Erwin Wong, participants divided into 22 separate teams that focused on projects for five tracks: BMCC Student Community, BMCC Career Exploration, BMCC Health Care, BMCC Environmental Sustainability, and Women in STEM.

Throughout the day, students learned from industry experts who provided feedback and insights and later judged the submissions. Azhar also hosted a panel discussion featuring industry experts where participants could ask questions.

At the end of the work session, judges provided feedback and asked questions about the submitted projects and finally picked five winning apps, games or websites. All the submissions are now housed at the event’s page on DevPost.

Azhar says the event offered students a chance to build confidence and learn about how capable they are.  He said Amazon was so impressed by the BMCC students they encouraged them to participate in the Amazon challenge.

“Students were challenged to innovate and they became more confident after the event since they now have a product to showcase. Most importantly, they had fun learning experience where they can collaborate,” said Azhar.

The winning websites, apps and games and what they actually do include:

First Prize –KARTOSHA (website)—Students used CSS, HTML and Javascript to design website that helps BMCC students improve their experience in terms of registration and obtaining academic advisement. Student users are able to create a plan for their two years at BMCC. Users select classes based on their level. Once users completed a class and met the prerequisite for the next level, the class will open up.

Second Prize #1-No Means No (game)— This game was built using Pygame using Pyfunction, Photoshop, & Illustrator. The web page utilized HTML and CSS. The game hosts a female character who has been facing harassment at work. She decides to fight the patriarchy and stand up against her coworkers’ misogynistic and offensive comments. The purpose of the game is to provide a platform where men can play to get a sense of what harassment is like from a woman’s perspective. Women can also play and feel empowered while playing.

Second Prize #2-REMEMO (APP) — This app asks questions related to the student experiences in life as well as opinions of her or his feelings in certain scenarios. After this, the app creates a memo with tips for the student. Those tips give the student ideas of what to do when facing stressful situations and/or what to do to balance academic and personal life, for example. This is a creative way to deal with problems, understand them and see that many people pass through the same things. The students used basic variables such as print and input in the design.

Best Use of Wolfram Technologies –Student Facial Attendance Facial Recognition (APP)— The application uses a client-server architecture and a systematic database system to take attendance through facial recognition — an effective attendance and record-keeping method achieved through the use of industry-rep Wolfram Alpha’s machine learning and its neural networks’s algorithms. The students built their project using Wolfram Alpha’s machine learning’s functions and algorithms to train a neural networks for advanced facial recognition. In addition, they used Python and SQLite in their backend to make the application scalable and easily implementable in environments other than school

Best Use of Alexa Winners-the BMCC Hub—the taskKeeper (desktop application/ Amazon’s Alexa)—The BMCC Hub is designed to help students find the location to BMCC offices such as Admissions and Financial Aid, by simply asking Alexa. This can reduce the waiting time at an information desk to ask the direction to the offices.

The taskKeeper tracks users and allows them to organically organize tasks and events on the fly. The students who built it say it has most of the functionality we hoped to achieve in such a limited time frame. The students used amazon’s dynamo db alexa, and amazon serverless lambdas and with a java application for the demo GUI.

Student organizers included Hector Liang, business administration alumnus; Abla Atoubi,computer science alumnus; Momo Zongo, computer science alumnus.

Graduating Computer Science major Mehmet Sahin was instrumental in making the event a reality.

Staff organizers included Katherine Bedoya, Elizabeth Yan, Information, Rehana Hoque from the Center for Career Development.

Assistant Interim Director Driada Rivas and Associate Director of Career Services and Employer Relations Thierry Thesatus played a pivotal role in organizing the event.

Organizers also thanked the Office of Student Affairs.



  • Student participants build impressive apps, website and games
  • More than 100 participants worked until past midnight at the event
  • BMCC Projects are housed at Devpost

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