RocHack’s Spring 2014 Hackathon: 24 Hours of Making Things

Last month, students from both Rochester and RIT got together for RocHack’s first 24-hour Hackathon.

the start of the event

The start of the 24-hour event on Saturday, April 12, in Rettner Hall on the River Campus. Photo by Jack Valinsky, Class of 2017.

What’s RocHack? It’s a group on campus for students who like to write cool software, mess around with hardware, and are computer enthusiasts in general. For those of you reading this who are current students at Rochester, RocHack meets Mondays at 8:00 pm in Hylan 301; you don’t have to be a computer science major to join! Rochack, which was created in 2012 by current and former students Simon Weber, Sean Brennan, Andrew Wong, Nate Book, Charles Lehner, and Steve Gattuso, is an organization closely related to CSUG, the school’s official Computer Science Undergraduate Council. Some of the cool projects that have come out of the club are Skedge, a better version of our school’s course scheduling system, UR Wallet, a tool that lets students check and add to their meal plan balances quickly, and UR Bus Schedules, a colorful and simple way to view bus times.

Students, from both inside the U of R and out, getting ready for the event. Photo by Jack Valinsky, Class of 2017.

And what’s a “Hackathon“? Basically, it’s an event where a bunch of people get together to build cool things (generally software like mobile applications, desktop programs, etc.) in a span of 12 or 24 hours. Some people choose to work in groups, while others work alone.

Anyway, the hackathon we hosted turned out to be a great success. Around thirty or so students, from here and RIT, showed up to see what they could build in 24 hours. There were a lot of sponsors as well, from Google to MathWorks to SparkFun, which all helped make the event possible by providing food, electronics to mess around with, and prizes for the event’s winners. This wasn’t the first hackathon that Rochack has hosted; that title goes to the eight-hour one in the fall of 2013. It was encouraging to see the size of the event and number of sponsors grow exponentially from then to now, which can only mean good things for the club moving forward.

A lot of cool things came out of the event; one student made their own operating system, another group made an extension for Google Chrome that acts as a notification tool for Reddit, and one group started work on a project to turn Rettner Hall’s staircase into a giant piano (yes, you read that right). My group and I worked on a mobile app to let Rochester students easily buy and sell things like textbooks, laptops, and appliances, which will hopefully be released in the coming months. There were many other cool projects too. For everyone involved, the hackathon was a time to learn, meet new people, and most importantly, do the things we love to do: make cool stuff.


Check out the group’s Facebook page, swing by the website, and if you’re interested, look at our code on GitHub. If you’re interested in RocHack, but have never written a program before and feel intimidated, don’t worry! Anyone in the group would be happy to help you learn. You can also check out my quick tutorial on programming in Python to get started.

About the author

Ty Kelley

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