“BrainHack” wins 2018 Congressional App Challenge


Courtesy of Erica Sammarco

Seniors, from left, Liam Marshall of Sea Girt, Erica Sammarco of Colts Neck and Anthony Sasso of Colts Neck won the 2018 Congressional App Challenge with their app, BrainHack.

Isabella Ji, Lily Jones, and Ella Lukowiak

After months of work, a group of three seniors from the Advanced Java programming class won the 2018 Congressional App Challenge for New Jersey’s fourth congressional district. Anthony Sasso and Erica Sammarco, both of Colts Neck, and Liam Marshall of Sea Girt won the challenge for their brain training app, BrainHack.

The Congressional App Challenge aims to “inspire, innovate and include” STEM-related subjects such as coding and computer technology, according to its official website.

Sammarco served as BrainHack’s project manager. She said that while developing the app seemed daunting at first, it proved to be rewarding.

“There were definitely points where I was concerned about finishing or how the final product would turn out,” Sammarco said. “It wasn’t until we made our final adjustments in the last few days before submission that I really saw it come together.”

Sasso agreed with Sammarco. He said that despite the challenges of time management and keeping everyone on the same page, the group united in the end.

“The app came out better than I had been expecting in the beginning,” Sasso said.

When asked about the inspiration behind the app, Marshall said it came from his family. Marshall’s grandmother battled Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia, while he was growing up.

“It meant a lot to me to see the three of us work so well together to make an app that could really make a conversation about Alzheimer’s in the technology world,” Marshall said.

Sammarco said the various games in the app focus on different areas of the brain such as memory, reaction time, visual processing, strategy and logic.

“[It] helps people exercise their brains to help slow the onset of memory loss,” Sammarco said.  

Sasso said that when he heard the results, he was grateful that his team’s efforts paid off.

“There was a ton of time and hard work put into it and it felt really good to see it recognized,” Sasso said.

For any participants looking to compete in the contest in the future, Sammarco advised that communication and hard work is key.

“Stay focused and work through it. If you communicate well with your group and put in the time, I definitely think you will have a successful app,” Sammarco said.

“I’m extremely proud of our team, and so happy with the end result,” Marshall said.