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Hacking to impress: 24-hour event tests NJ high school computer skills

Manalapan High School
Manalapan High School (Freehold Regional High School District)

MANALAPAN — Hundreds of Freehold Regional High School District students may be staying up all night Saturday into Sunday. And a principal will be right there watching.

About 230 district students are participating this weekend in a 24-hour event known as a “hackathon.” Popular on the college level, the marathon events give students free range in putting their computer and programming knowledge to task.

“The students come to the table with their own projects, largely,” said Manalapan High School Principal Adam Angelozzi, who designed the event with a group of students. “So they’ll design apps or create a website or design a solution to a problem.”

Rest assured: hacking doesn’t mean these students will be stealing passwords and reading your private emails. As Angelozzi explains it, they’re “finding new and improved ways to do different things with computer programs and computer hardware.”

“They’ll also have the availability of some of the newest technology on the market to play around with and see what they can create,” he added.

Angelozzi will be one of several adults on hand for the around-the-clock event, featuring classroom workshops, meals and other activities such as a cup stacking competition and a Super Smash Bros. tournament.

But in the wee hours — 1 to 8 a.m. — students really get cracking on their creations. The schedule devotes that time block to hacking only. Students can also use that time to get some rest.

The event, meals and swag are completely free, courtesy of a handful of sponsors. Mentors are on hand to assist students who may not be as advanced in computer programming as others.

Come Sunday afternoon, six to eight “Hacks of Distinction” will be recognized during the closing ceremony. Students will receive Raspberry Pi computer processors.

“In the end, it’s kind of less about winning the event than it is about creating, having fun and, as my students described it, generally being awesome,” Angelozzi said.

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