Students stand at the front of the room presenting a project as part of the Tri-Co Hackathon. Photo by Anna Braun '26.

Students Use Programming to Tackle Problems at Annual Tri-Co Hackathon

Students from Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore teamed up to learn practical programming skills and devise solutions to problems on the three campuses.

On the afternoon of Friday, November 4, students from Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore gathered in Lutnick Library to collaborate in this year’s Tri-Co Hackathon. This was the first in-person Hackathon since the start of the pandemic, as the annual event, first launched in 2014, had been hosted online since 2020. This year, the event was planned by Havercode, the student organization that serves as an intermediary between the computer science student body and faculty, and the Haverford Innovations Program, rather than by people from all three schools.

Hackathons are timed competitions where people, often in teams, work together to create programs and software to accomplish specific goals. This time, the theme of the event was improving the Tri-Co Community; students would produce projects to not only refine their technical skills, but also tackle issues throughout the collective campus community.

Wahub Ahmed ‘25, a computer science major and Secretary of Havercode, served as co-director of the Hackathon. In that role, he handled logistics and event promotion, prepared resources for participants, coordinated the personnel helping in the Hackathon, assisted participants with technical questions, and facilitated the judging process. Ahmed worked alongside Shayna Nickel, associate program director of the Haverford Innovations Program. Together, they opened the Tri-Co Hackathon by explaining its premise and beginner-friendly focus, and laying out the guidelines for participants, and demonstrating available resources.

After the opening meeting, Ahmed hosted a workshop on the fundamentals of HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), both of which would be critical for materializing ideas in the Hackathon. Friday concluded with teams meeting and discussing ideas. While students were encouraged to work on projects pertaining to the Tri-Co, those looking to branch out were encouraged to pursue ideas connected to environmentalism, social justice, and healthcare. As the library closed, the event moved to VCAM, where students remained well into Friday night, enjoying Insomnia Cookies and hot chocolate as they brainstormed ideas.

That planning would come into play quickly; the Hackathon began in earnest on Saturday at 10 AM when teams gathered to work on their projects. Experienced students from Haverford’s Computer Science department, including Havercode co-head Sam Tan ‘23, were available to answer questions at all times.

One team of four, “Off My Chest,” worked to create a form of social media focused on mental health and wellness. One team member, Brandon Morales ‘26, said that he had never participated in a Hackathon before, and was interested in trying something new. 

“As a prospective computer science major, I was advised by my pre-major advisor that getting involved in computer science activities, such as hackathons, would give me the experience to do well later on,” said Morales. Afterwards, he said that the event helped him get a taste of the teamwork and collaboration used by software developers in a professional setting, teaching him about the field. “Overall, I thought it was a great use of my time, “ Morales said.

“Off My Chest” was awarded a third place prize, with second place going to the “Powerpuff Girls,” a group of five students who built a program to bridge the gap between “demand,” or places looking to receive donations, such as schools, shelters, and charities, and “supply,” or those willing to donate. Finishing in first place were Swarthmore students Minh Nguyen ‘23 and Leonard Park ‘23, members of the team “Lunch Date,” which came up with a platform for students in the Tri-Co to meet up with friends for lunch if both participants’ schedules line up.

This year’s Hackathon was a resounding success, with 30 students from the three colleges working on seven innovative projects. Havercode is hopeful that future iterations will attract as much attention and excitement across the Tri-Co community.

Full details about each team’s projects are available on the event’s GitHub page.