Hosted at the nation's first university, PennApps is the original college hackathon. Come join us to learn something new, build an app, or start a company.
Let's continue to make history together.
The College Hackathon
In the context of a hackathon, the word "hack" is used to describe how multiple technologies can be used together in a new and innovative way. Teams of up to four people spend the weekend working on innovative software and hardware solutions to real-world problems. These projects range in platform and application, including elements of web development, mobile applications, drones, and more. However, many times the most important aspect of a hackathon is the community it generates and skills that inexperienced hackers walk away with.
The PennApps Difference
Founded in the fall of 2009, PennApps was the nation's first student-run college hackathon. Since then, it has spurred a revolution in the way engineering students develop and showcase their skills, spawning an entire "league" of hackathons across the nation. In past years, over a thousand students from the U.S. and other countries like Switzerland, Canada, England, and Singapore have converged in Philadelphia for the spring and fall editions of the event for a weekend of creation and discovery. Both beginners and experts alike will work together, learn and compete to become better engineers and work on awesome projects. This year, PennApps is growing to 2000 of the brightest hackers in the world, allowing us to bring even more of the world's best talent under one roof to work together and build amazing things.
A History of Excellence
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.
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.
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.
Twilio on the Road in January: PennApps and Philly Startup Weekend - Twilio Blog
Mobile App Coders Rise to Challenge: PennApps draws a crowd - Monetate Blog
Tropo Powers PennApps Mobile Winner - Tropo Blog
Build the Next Generation of Mobile Apps in Philadelphia - Tropo Blog
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.
PennApps: how the University of Pennsylvania hackathon group started and whats next [VIDEO] - TechnicallyPhilly
PennApps fall 2011: hacked microwave-driven video player wins $2,500 - TechnicallyPhilly
SPIRIT OF A HACKATHON AND PENNAPPS 2011 - Mashery Blog
Students Hack Microwaves and Create a Digital Beer Snob with the Hunch API at PennApps - Hunch Blog
TouchPad Microwave Hack Finds Videos That End Right When The Popcorn Is Ready - TechCrunch
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.
Best Mashups from PennApps 2012 Hackathon - programmableweb
Undergrad Doers Take Aim At SOPA and PIPA at PennApps - Twilio
Guest Post: 2012 Spring PennApps Hackathon - Simplicity - HACKCOLLEGE
Firefly: Making Screensharing Dead Simple - Inc.
PennApps - The epitome of a college hackathon - Mashery Blog
PennApps Spring 2012 - CloudMine Blog
Over 300 people attended, more than double that of previous events. 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.
PennApps Fall 2012: Bigger & Stronger - Mashery Developer Blog
PennApps Hackathon 2012 - Mozilla Blog
Hacker Teams from Michigan Win Recognitions at PennApps Hackathon - University of Michigan Blog
PennApps 2012 Wrapup - AddThis Blog
Hack Your Facebook (All In Good Fun) - AllFacebook
PennApps: The Hackathon that Changed Everything (for me) - CloudMine Blog
Interesting hacks from PennApps, the largest student-run hackathon - Filepicker.io Blog
TIME TO OPEN A CAN OF PENNAPPS - IKANOW
WHY PENNAPPS SHOULD BE PRESIDENT - IKANOW
PENNAPPS 2012: A SUCCESS - IKANOW
PennApps Fall 2012: all-female team wins $4k first prize for music transcriber J.A.M. - TechnicallyPhilly
Site Lets You Simulate a Facebook Hack, Goes Viral at PennApps - Time Techland
Students hack for 48 hours in PennApps hackathon - The Daily Pennsylvanian
Missing sleep in McClelland - The Daily Pennsylvanian
This site lets you "hack" your Facebook to trick your friends - The Next Web
Inside the largest student-run hackathon: A breeding ground for tech talent - VentureBeat
Yahoo! Sponsors @PennApps Hackathon - Yahoo! on Campus Blog
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.
Embarrassing Facebook history? New FaceWash app cleans your page - FOX News Chicago
App of the Week: FaceWash - ABC News
Meet Musical Toilet, the latest innovation in the 'connected bathroom' - PandoDaily
Philadelphia Open Data at PennApps - Philly MDO Blog
PennApps Spring 2013 - Mashery Developer Blog
The fundamentals behind a successful hackathon - Opentok Blog
PayTango: Putting Payments at Your Fingertips--Literally - Inc.
PennApps 2013 Hackathon Runner-Up SparkTab Could Be Your New Browser Start Page - TechCrunch
Mosaic Lets You Weave A Single Display From Multiple iPhones And iPads, Offers SDK For Developers - TechCrunch
Mosaic.io Recognized with Apple Design Award - Apple
PennApps: Largest student hackathon paves the road for innovative apps - Google Blog
PennApps 2013 Event Recap - SendGrid Blog
PennApps Spring 2013 - Mashery Blog
UPenn "PennApps Hackathon" 2013 Recap & winners! - Examiner
SoundCloud at PennApps - SoundCloud Blog
PennApps hackathon delivers big results - FlyingKiteMedia
The world's largest student-run hackathon isn't at Stanford or MIT; it's at Penn - PandoDaily
SimpleWash (FaceWash), the Easiest Way to Clean Up Your Facebook Page - Mashable
SimpleWash (FaceWash): And The Prize For Best 'Facebook Privacy Metaphor' Goes To... - Forbes
PennApps Spring 2013: Inventory, app that detects what's in your backpack, wins $4k at biggest university hackathon in the world - TechnicallyPhilly
PennApps Recap: EyePhone, Inventory, and Making Your Coffee Maker Text You - Twilio Blog
Some PennApps prizewinning teams continue to develop their apps - The Daily Pennsylvanian
Coders around country gather for PennApps hackathon - The Daily Pennsylvanian
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.
PennApps Fall 2013: real-time app editor Swap wins $10k – TechnicallyPhilly
PennApps Fall 2013: our favorites from the 200+ projects – TechnicallyPhilly
Mayor Nutter kicks off PennApps – Medium
PennApps Fall 2013 kicks off with a bang – Medium
Hope in our future...PennApps Fall 2013 – TechEntre
PennApps Fall 2013 winners take home $30,000 in prizes – ChallengePost Blog
PennApps Kicks Off The Hackathon Season – Readyforce Blog
PennApps - Fall 2013 Edition – Mashery Developer Blog
Dwolla at PennApps Fall 2013! – Dwolla Blog
ICYMI: Best Moments from PennApps Hackathon – 50onRed Blog
PennApps Hackathon Fall 2013 Series – The Daily Pennsylvanian
Observing PennApps at the Kislak Center – Apps on Tap
PennApps in Van Pelt: My thoughts – ennWIC Blog
SoC Students Finish Third at PennApps Fall 2013 – NUS SoC News
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).
Apple Reportedly Plans To Open Siri To Third Parties - Forbes
Crazy Siri Hack Brings Voice Commands to Google Maps, Spotify - Time
College Kids Hack Siri to Unlock Teslas and Heat Up Your House - Wired
This Simple Siri Hack Lets You Control Anything With Your iPhone - Gizmodo
WebNes Plays Your Nintendo Games in a Mobile Browser - LifeHacker
Play Nintendo Games on the iPhone from Safari & Web NES Emulator - OS X Daily
Here are all the winning projects from PennApps 2014 - TechnicallyPhilly
PennApps Spring 2014 Collection - Medium
PennApps: 900 Students, 6 Buildings, 3 Floors, 1 Great Hackathon - Intel Developer Zone
PennApps: 48 Hours of Brilliance - Comcast Voices
PennApps Spring 2014 - Mashery Developer Blog
PennApps Spring 2014! - Octopart Blog
Recap: PennApps - rdio Developer Blog
A homework pass with a lifetime warranty - The Daily Pennsylvanian
PennHacks, the hardware hackathon, joins PennApps - The Daily Pennsylvanian
PennApps Spring 2K14: Absurd Nerds and Their Flappy Birds - Under the Button
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 organizing 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 inspire 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.
ChallengePost - All hacks and prizes
TechnicallyPhilly - Winning Hacks from PennApps X
TechnicallyPhilly - Penn Freshmen build future of vision
ThalmicLabs - Hacking the Myo armband
Quixey - Quixey mentors hackers at PennApps
ChallengePost - Our favorite hacks
Factual Blog - Hacking it out at PennApps
Wharton Entrepreneurship - PennApps X
Penn Current - International Hackers come to PennApps
Programmable Web - Third Eye creates audio descriptions of objects
MedCity News - Cool healthcare Hacks from PennApps X
MedCity News - PennApps X adds Health Division
Daily Pennsylvanian - PennApps Partners with Med School
Daily Pennsylvanian - PennApps Winner
Daily Pennsylvanian - No Sleep at PennApps
TechCrunch - Your Future Engineers aren't attending Career Fairs anymore
Medium Collection - PennApps X
PageVamp - From hack to startup
The Blatt - Aggies tackle healthcare system problems at hackathons
The Blatt - Aggies find success at hackathon
PennApps Winter 2015: PennApps XI was winter themed, and brought out the big guns with the first penguin-themed hackathon. The biggest PennApps yet, with over 1300 hackers, focused on making the most enjoyable hackathon for hackers, with great food (local delicacies such as Federal Donuts, Rita's, and Philly Cheesesteaks were standouts), great side events (Ice Skating with the penguin mascot) and penguin plushies for everyone. We also brought back Code Weekend and all-new workshops and mentors as resources to help hackers get started. The Final Expo moved to the historic Houston Hall and a joint Live Stream with MHacks took over the front page of Twitch.tv. The winning team lifesaber was from Barcelona and the rest of the hacks can be seen here.
Coming Early September.
PennApps is built upon the idea that everyone should be able to participate, from individuals who have never written a line of code to experts who have been developing for years. To help facilitate the learning experience, we've compiled a number of resources to help during the weekend. Our mentoring website has a number of tutorials on tools to get you started. In addition, we'll be offering a series of tech talks throughout the event.
This PennApps, we're introducing Trails.
Think of trails like a set of ingredients. You can mix and match as many as you want, and each of them adds a little something special, but not all of them mix well. But each of them pays off in its own special way.
You can choose to hack on as many trails as you want, each one is somehow tied to a technology or an idea. Each one can be incorporated into your hack. Each one has its own prize. There may be cool things we do for specific trails, but that's TBA (think workshops, panels, themed scavenger hunts, special resources, hardware etc.).
Look out for a full list of trails in the coming months.
Once again, PennApps is partnering with The Architechs to show everyone the beauty of hardware by providing resources and support to visiting hardware hackers at PennApps. If you're interested in sponsoring our hardware section of PennApps, checkout our hardware sponsorship document.
Many past PennApps hacks have included hardware and our goal is to give hardware and software equal importance at PennApps. If you want to hack on it, we will have it for you. For those of you that want to get more physical with your hacks, we will be providing access to laser cutters and 3D printers.
In the past we have supplied hackers with the most exciting technologies including Microsoft Kinects, Parrot Drones, Estimote Beacons, Thalmic Myos, Occulus Rifts, and an assortment of other sensors and supplies. Check out the full list of hardware we had last PennApps here. We're likely to bring back many of these awesome things and more this Fall.
We are each affected by the shortcomings of a healthcare system overwhelmed with outdated technology, whether through our own experiences or those of our friends and family. We will be bringing together top clinicians, engineers, designers, and industry sponsors to take on the biggest challenges in health. We invite you to join us as we hack our health for a better, faster, more accessible, and more equitable health experience.
The PennApps Health symposium will include keynotes on the power of technology to improve healthcare. Stay tuned for more details, but previous symposiums also hosted interactive panel discussions featuring entrepreneurs and engineers who are using technology to innovate in healthcare, and a reception for hackers to discuss their ideas with the speakers, as well as clinical and industry mentors.
Aside from the mentors coming from our corporate sponsors, clinical mentors representing the fields of Radiology, Cardiology, Pulmonology and Psychology as well as mentors with backgrounds in medical and diagnostic imaging, bioinformatics, and clinical informatics will be present during the hackathon. We will also have graduate student mentors from the fields of design, biomedical engineering, and medicine.
Applications open Early May.
The Application Process
Thousands of qualified candidates apply to participate in PennApps every year, however our space can only support a limited number of participants and as much as we'd like to take everyone, it just isn't possible. We think that the fairest way to decide who we invite is by asking everyone to tell us a little bit about themselves, so that we can invite people who have demonstrated interest and skill.
We don't expect everyone to have been to a hackathon before, in fact, we love first-time hackers having been there ourselves when we started! We're just trying to bring those who most want to really build something awesome and learn something new, and while we can't invite everyone, we're striving to continue building a community of diverse and amazing hackers at PennApps. Just show us what you've made, tell us about why you want to be at PennApps, and we'll do our best to get you here!
By growing to become the largest hackathon in the nation, we hope to double the number of people we can invite to PennApps, so get ready for a life-changing experience!
*PennApps Spring 2015 Statistics.
Traveling To PennApps
We will pay for your travel to PennApps. You won't have to pay a dime. In fact, while you're here, we'll even throw in free food and tons of awesome swag all weekend long.
If you're not from the USA, we will pay for your travel up to $500, and can help you find sponsors to cover any difference (this has happened frequently in the past). We think that the best hackers in the world shouldn't have to pay their way here.
Frequently Asked Questions
We know you have a lot of questions, so check below for some of the most common answers or drop us a line at [email protected].
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 links, project descriptions, Github profiles, video demos or participation/awards in other hackathons. We don't require that you've participated in a hackathon ever before, but show us what makes you special in whatever way is most natural.
Should Penn students fill out the application too?
Nope! We'll have a separate registration process for Penn students only later in the summer. Every Penn student who wants to participate is free to, as long as they register in advance. No application process. If you're new to programming, we'll be running workshops for Penn students in the weeks leading up to the event (look out for Code Weekend!), and Friday evening of PennApps.
When will applications close?
The application will likely close in late June/early July, and we'll turn around decisions within a few weeks.
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 (see Travel section).
Once I am 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.
Please don't bring: Firearms or other weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, soldering or similar equipment, animals (no matter how adorable).
How do reimbursements work?
When you're accepted, we'll have a page where you can submit your required travel reimbursement forms and receipts. For each location hackers will be coming from, we determine the cheapest reasonable option and set a reimbursement cap at a bit more than the cost of that option. We will reimburse all travel costs up to this cap—if you go over, we'll still reimburse the amount of the cap, but no more. You will be able to view all the important information, including your travel allotment and important forms on my.pennapps.com.
When/Where can I hack?
PennApps will start in the evening of Friday, September __th with the kick-off ceremony. There will be events planned throughout the day for those who arrive early. A detailed schedule of events and locations will be posted later. All work eligible for prizes must be completed between Friday night after the kick-off and Sunday morning at the hacking location (TBA).
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 hacks based on the following criteria: creativity, technical difficulty, polish, and usefulness. Top prizes are TBA, but usually involve thousands of dollars and insane perks from company sponsors. Most sponsors offer their own prizes too for specific categories, which they judge and fund themselves. We had well over $40k worth of prizes up for grabs last time if you like numbers.
I'm interested in using hardware for my hack?
You're in luck! We have a whole team of organizers devoted to hardware. Check out the hardware tab to see what they have planned.
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 (time and location TBA).
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.
What should I do if I have additional questions or want to express my limitless gratitude?
Aw shucks. Well, if you really must thank us, or you have questions about anything, shoot us an email at [email protected]
Working with PennApps as a sponsor provides companies a unique opportunity to reach some of the nation's most talented college students. There are a number of levels at which sponsors can get involved, the details of which can be found below:
Information for corporate sponsors can be found on our Sponsorship Document.
Venture Capital firms looking to bring their portfolio companies should look at our VC Sponsorship Document.
Check out our Sponsorship Guide for important information about how to make the most of sponsoring a hackathon.
The PennApps Sponsorship team can be reached at [email protected].