January 16 - 18, 2015

The nation's premier college hackathon

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FAQ

Stuff you might need to know

What is PennApps?

PennApps is the premier student-run college hackathon. More than a thousand student programmers from all over the world converge on Philadelphia twice a year for a weekend of creating and learning. Hackathons are about coding together to solve real-world problems. Students work in teams of up to four people for thirty-six hours to create a web, mobile, or hardware application. PennApps has been around for a long time, and we're soon going to be celebrating our eleventh iteration.

What can I win?

It’s not about winning—it’s about learning and making friends that last for a lifetime (so everyone’s a winner!). If you’re thinking, “that’s adorable...but really,” then we’ve got you covered too. A panel of professional judges will select the best three apps based on the following criteria: creativity, technical difficulty, polish, and usefulness. Top prizes are TBA, but usually involve thousands of dollars and perks from company sponsors. Most sponsors offer their own prizes too for specific categories, which they judge and fund themselves.

I’m not a student, so how can I get involved?

Unfortunately, we can’t allow you to participate in the event or be on site during hacking. If you’re looking to mentor (i.e. someone with technical skills who’d be willing to help out participants during the weekend), you should reach out to us at [email protected]. Otherwise, you can see the finished products at the demos on Sunday (see the schedule below).

When is PennApps?

PennApps will start the evening of Friday, January 16th, 2015 with the kick-off ceremony and continue until January 18th with the closing ceremony and prize distribution. There will be events planned throughout Friday for those who arrive early. A detailed schedule of events and locations will be posted in the future.

What’s the application process like?

We’re looking for creative and innovative people with a set of skills that can contribute to a project: mobile, web, hardware, design, or anything else really cool. We generally prefer people that have proven their abilities in previous projects, evident through Github links, project descriptions, or participation/awards in other hackathons. Watch out for when applications open.

Once I get accepted, what do I need to bring?

Need: Laptop and charger, cellphone and charger, sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries, a couple changes of clothes (nerdy shirts are particularly appreciated). Don’t need: a pre-determined team, an idea for an app, food or drink. Pleeeeaaaassseeee don’t bring: Firearms or other weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, soldering or similar equipment, animals (no matter how adorable).

How is PennApps run?

PennApps is planned almost entirely by (sleep-deprived) University of Pennsylvania students, with some advice and assistance from our friends at Penn Engineering. One hundred percent of the funding for PennApps comes from corporate sponsor donations. You can find more information about sponsoring at our sponsor section.

Who participates in PennApps?

All the coolest people interested in tech will be there. Participants are the top high school and college developers from schools across the US and other countries like Switzerland, Canada, England, and Singapore.

How much will PennApps cost me?

Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. We’ll provide you with a weekend’s worth of swag, meals, drinks, and snacks and a place to crash when you need a break from coding. In fact, we’ll even fully reimburse your travel (within reason, we'll send an email with details after you're accepted) if you’re coming from within the US. For students from international universities, we provide up to $500 per person and try to provide opportunities to help you get local sponsors to cover your trip.

Should Penn students fill out the application too?

Nope! We’ll have a separate registration process for Penn students only, starting sometime in late November/early December. If you’re new to programming, we’ll have loads of mentoring resources available.

When/Where can I hack?

All work eligible for prizes must be completed between Friday night after the kick-off and Sunday morning at the hacking location (Penn's Engineering School or Education Commons).

HARDWARE

Getting your hands dirty

For the third time in a row, PennApps is partnering with The Architechs to put more focus on hardware hackers by providing resources and support to visiting hardware hackers at PennApps. If you're interested in sponsoring the hardware section of PennApps, check out our hardware sponsorship document.

Many past PennApps hacks have included hardware and our goal is to give hardware and software equal importance at PennApps X. If you want to hack on it, we will have it for you. Additionally, for those of you that want to get more physical with your hacks, we will be providing access to a laser cutter.

Some of the hardware we had at PennApps X for hackers to hack with included Microsoft Kinects, Parrot Drones, Estimote Beacons, Thalmic Myos, and an assortment of other sensors and supplies. Check out the full list of hardware at PennApps X here. We're likely to bring back many of these awesome things + more this winter.

“Most people who do hardware also need to make use of software. I’d like to see it all at the same time to get a variety of things.”

Christopher Moody, Intel

"The smell of hardware was in the air at PennApps this year, with the UPenn hardware hackers group, The Architechs, joining the organizing group."

Michael Sutherland, Leap Motion

"PennApps was a terrific opportunity for us to meet students that already know and love Octopart, and introduce ourselves to new hardware hackers."

Janine Yoong, Octopart


Notable Hardware Hacks from the Past

MagicBoard
Fall 2014 2nd Place

Quitli
Fall 2014 3rd Place

Homework Machine
Spring 2014 Winner

Inventory
Spring 2013 Winner

Scratch Table
Spring 2012 Winner

uWave
Fall 2011 Winner

HISTORY

A tradition of excellence

  1. Fall 2009

    Fall 2009


    Cohosted by Penn's Women in Computer Science (WICS), the very first PennApps spanned a week! (Don't worry, participants were allowed to sleep.) 17 teams participated, and laid the foundation for all PennApps to come.


  2. Fall 2010

    Fall 2010


    This was the first 48 hour PennApps; though only 10 teams made it through, we think they did an amazing job! One standout app was SEPTA Now, which tracks SEPTA regional trains around the city so users can know exactly where trains are, and if they're running late.


  3. Spring 2011

    Spring 2011


    Also known as PennApps mobile, this hackathon centered around the creation of mobile apps. 23 teams pulled together their hacks on platforms including Android, iPhone, Mobile Web, Windows Phone, and through texting.


  4. Fall 2011

    Fall 2011


    In Fall 2011, the focus was data. Sponsored by Venmo, Comcast, Twilio, Yahoo, Palantir, Tumblr, Mozilla, and 30 other companies and organizations, we challenged students to choose from a variety of publicly available data sets. Competitors were asked to uniquely and efficiently solve problems through the use of data. 40 teams presented at the demo session, and their hacks were truely innovative as were the winners.


  5. Spring 2012

    Spring 2012


    Sponsored by Venmo, Coursekit (now Lore), Tumblr, Yahoo, and nineteen other companies, PennApps Spring 2012 centered around the theme of simplicity. ScratchTable won the grand prize: the team used a contact mike and their coding skills to turn any surface into a DJ turntable. Second place was Grassroutes, a hack that allowed anyone to put a widget on any website, giving users one-click access to their congressional representatives. All of the other winners can be found here.


  6. Fall 2012

    Fall 2012


    With over 300 students, we more than doubled in size. Sponsored by Venmo, Bain Capital Ventures, KPCB, and many more, PennApps 2012 Fall managed to churn out a future member of the YC '13 class, PayTango. Despite fierce competition, Java Auto Music won first place with the rest of the winners being just as impressive.


  7. Spring 2013

    Spring 2013


    With nearly 500 students, PennApps continued to hold its title as the top college hackathon. With Venmo, Dropbox, Microsoft, Andreessen Horowitz, and many other companies sponsoring, PennApps Spring 2013 was able to attract students from universities as far off as California (Stanford, Berkeley, etc.), Canada (Waterloo, Toronto) and even Switzerland (ETH Zurich), becoming the first PennApps to go international. First place went to Inventory and the rest of the winners can be found here.


  8. Fall 2013

    Fall 2013


    With around 1,100 students, we nearly tripled in size this time around. Sponsors including Venmo, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform allowed the best hackers to travel to Penn from around the world, including Switzerland (ETH Zurich), Hong Kong (HKUST), Israel (IDC Herzliya), and Singapore (NUS). We took over Penn Engineering and the sixth floor of Van Pelt library for hacking, and the Palestra on Sunday for an expo of the more than 200 incredible hacks. First place and $10,000 went to Swap and you can find the rest of the outstanding hacks here.


  9. Spring 2014

    Spring 2014


    Instead of increasing our size, we expressed our love for PennApps participants by focusing on improving the quality of the hacking experience for our Valentine’s day edition. We helped hackers express admiration for each other through candygrams and our PennApps Admirers page, honored the youngest elite coders with a high school hacker meet-up, and cherished our top sponsor Venmo with a parody ad campaign. We joined forces with Penn’s Architechs to provide dedicated space and parts to hardware hackers and Penn’s Design and Education schools for Stitchfest. After hacking for 36 hours straight in the Penn Engineering complex and demoing finished apps at the Penn Museum, The Homework Machine took the top prize (and you can find all the other awesome projects here).


  10. Fall 2014

    Fall 2014


    PennApps X was the best PennApps yet, with incredible cutting edge hardware on hand, collaborations with Penn's Med & Design Schools and amazing hacks by the best hackers from around the world. With only a 30% acceptance rate, it was also the most competitive PennApps ever. We focused on making the experience for hackers as great as possible by doubling down on our mentoring efforts and organized Code Weekend the weekend before PennApps to introduce first-time hackers to coding. We also brought in the team from Pagevamp (PennApps Fall 2012) to inpsire hackers to build things that last. PennApps X - Fall 2014 was a major milestone for the hacker community, and we celebrated with special X themed gear, cakes and swag for the ages.


SPONSORS

The companies that make this possible

If you're interested in sponsoring PennApps, then check out our . For hardware companies, check out the . If you're a VC firm interested in bringing your portfolio companies, check out our VC sponsorship document. You can also check out who some of our past sponsors have been .


"Awesome work. This was probably the most well organized hackathon I have attended, and I was blown away by the quality of projects the students produced. We were thrilled to be a sponsor!"

Venmo

"PennApps - where students make the impossible possible."

Facebook

"PennApps is the gold standard for student-run hackathons."

Github
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