Grab that Safety Vest, Get Your Hazard Lights Ready: Students Invited to “Reflect” on Public Safety at 2024 HackUConn

An opportunity to network, be creative, and solve real-world problems at UConn's flagship hackathon

Blue light and water tower with husky dog mark (logo) on Feb. 28, 2020.

Public safety is the theme of this year's HackUConn event (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Whether on campus or online, in our homes, at school, in workplaces, or at public events, issues of public safety are never far from our collective consciousness.

But public safety encompasses far more than police officers and caution tape, flashing lights and orange cones – and the issues are ever-evolving.

What can we do to help keep people safe at large public events?

How do we support safe environments for everyone in our classrooms?

How do we manage challenges surrounding public safety that arise from our increasingly online lives?

This spring, UConn undergraduates are invited to “Reflect on Public Safety” at 2024’s HackUConn – an event that aims to bring together young innovators and industry experts for a non-stop, fast-paced innovation and invention competition.

HackUConn logo

A hackathon is a chance for creative thinkers, problem solvers, and anyone eager to make a difference to come together for the greater good. Students of all majors and backgrounds are invited to collaborate and innovate solutions to real-world challenges, whether you’re into design, business, marketing, or simply passionate about creating positive change.

This year, the student-led planning team for HackUConn settled on the theme of public safety after just a few conversations, says Katherine Bates ’25 (CLAS), the student planning team lead for HackUConn.

“As the team conversed, we all realized we had an area of safety that related to us personally,” says Bates. “This personal connection to the theme, whether it was safety on campus, safety online, safety in the classroom, just to name a few, led the team to choosing public safety as the theme for this year.”

First launched in 2016 as a way to help contribute to the University’s now thriving and collaborative entrepreneurial culture, HackUConn is the University’s flagship hackathon and an annual tradition – supported by the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation – that offers an opportunity for students to step outside of their comfort zone and gather ideas, attend workshops, gain insight from mentors, and compete for prizes during the 20-hour in-person event.

This year’s HackUConn will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 1 (with check-in starting at 4:00 p.m.), and will run until noon on Saturday, March 2, at the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower on the UConn Storrs campus.

“Students participating in HackUConn are expected to find a problem within this year’s theme, public safety, and create a solution to solve it,” explains Rachel Laemle ’24 (CAHNR), the logistics co-lead for HackUConn.

Registration for the event is now open, and students are encouraged to register by Friday, February 23. Students can register individually and then join a team at the event, or have the option of building a team before the event and registering together, though teams cannot bring in prior work – hacking can only be done during the event’s announced hacking period.

Over the course of the 20 consecutive hours, the student teams will brainstorm, prototype, and pitch their solutions to a panel of judges, who then select the winning ideas.

“You can gather close friends or make some new ones and pair up to pitch a solution to this year’s theme of public safety,” says Ava Carter ’25 (CLAS), the content team lead for HackUConn. “Not only should students be eager to participate for one of several grand prizes, but it’s an opportunity to network, problem solve, and create in a way never done before! It’s a night of fun and competition that any college student will be thrilled to attend!”

“I encourage participation in HackUConn for all students,” says Julian “Juju” Setiadi ’25 (ENG), the technology team lead for HackUConn, “emphasizing that regardless of their major or academic year, everyone stands to benefit from the valuable experience gained through involvement in this innovation competition!”

Some previous HackUConn winners have gone on to later pitch their hacked ideas to UConn’s Get Seeded, which gives students opportunities to earn seed funding and mentorship through the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Education, or CCEI, to help launch an entrepreneurial idea.

It’s a fun, creative, and safe environment to make like-minded new friends, says Aaron Rosman, operations manager for the Werth Institute and the HackUConn planning team’s supervisor, with the freedom to experiment and discover great new ideas.

“I encourage any student of any major or background to come and see where your creativity takes you,” Rosman says. “I think you’ll be surprised and pleased with yourself when you finish this event and see how far you have come in a day’s worth of time.”


HackUConn is free, and food is provided to all participants. For more information, or to register for this year’s HackUConn, visit