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 expanding its focus on learning by emphasizing the collaboration of new and experienced hackers, and providing more learning opportunities and workshops throughout the weekend.
At the end of every cycle, we ask the PennApps family if they would like to be a campus ambassador for PennApps. What this entails is spreading the word about PennApps at your local school, college or university. Campus ambassadors are an important part of the PennApps community and receive custom swag and perks at and before the event. Campus ambassadors applications are now closed.
For the first time, PennApps is proud to host opening and closing speakers! These highly innovative and successful people are looking forward to sharing their knowledge and experiences with hackers. Get your burning questions ready, because there will be a Q & A!
Charlie Cheever started Expo to make the creation of mobile software easier and more accessible for everyone. Before that, he co-founded Quora, a popular· question-and-answer service. He worked on a number of projects at Facebook and oversaw the creation of Facebook Platform and Facebook Video. Prior to Facebook, he was employed by Amazon in Seattle. He left Facebook to start Quora in June 2009. He stepped down from active management of Quora in September 2012 but remains an advisor. Charlie grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and is a graduate of Harvard College where he majored in Computer Science. He got his start in mobile programming by making games on a TI-85 graphing calculator.
Before working as the Chairman of Princeton Capital Management, Alfred Berkeley was President of the Nasdaq Stock Market. He was Vice Chair of the President Bush and Obama’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council and also served as Vice-Chair of the evaluation committee for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Berkeley has served on the board of directors for technology companies such as Webex, Cognos, Policy Management Systems, Safeguard Scientifics and non-profit boards such as the World Economic Forum USA, the Johns Hopkins University, the Medical School of the University of Maryland, Hollins University and Allen University. He received his MBA from the Wharton School in 1968.
PennApps is built upon the idea that everyone can participate, from individuals who have never written a line of code to experts who have been developing for years. We have a number of resources available at PennApps, including workshops, hacker gurus, and the ability to request a mentor. If you are not sure where to start, the mentorship team holds tech talks, introductory guides, and more. We are here to help! The PennApps Mentorship team can be reached at [email protected]. You can find many resources at mentoring.pennapps.com.
PennApps is partnering with Architechs again this year to let hackers get their hands dirty with hardware hacking. Whether you have vast experience with hardware or want to try it for the first time, our team of hardware volunteers will help you learn to use the cool gadgets we’re offering to build something incredible. We will be providing access to laser cutters and 3D printers as well as having our hardware check-out station to help make your hack the best one out there. PennApps aims to provide a wide array of hardware to interested hackers. A list of our previous parts can be found here. If you have any suggestions for specific hardware you’d like to see this, fall, please fill out this form with our requests. If you have any specific inquiries, feel free to reach out to David W. at [email protected].
Routes will continue this spring to provide you with additional and incentive when you hack on specific themes or just cool things to be a part of in addition to your hack. Think of Routes as a series of forks you can take, each adjusting your final destination by a bit. The right combination will help make your hack that much better, and each one you choose to take could lead to a very special payoff. This fall the Routes you can take are VR/AR, Cyber Security and Real-World (including Health and Social/Civic). Routes will give you special access to resources, fun side events, workshops and should you choose to incorporate one or more into your hack, prizes.
Stay tuned for details!
Stay tuned for details!
Historically, concepts conceived at PennApps have gone on to become full-fledged companies. In 2016, we partnered with the Penn Center for Health Care Innovation and the Penn Center for Innovation to bring real-world health care problems to PennApps.
Keriton was created after a team of nurses from Penn Medicine’s NICU spoke at PennApps about the challenges associated with the process for managing and tracking breast milk for premature babies. They described the process as repetitive and time-consuming – as well as impersonal for mothers with newborns in the NICU. Vidur Bhatnagar, an engineering student at Penn chose to work on this challenge, and went on to win 2nd place for his prototype of an advanced breast milk management system. Since then, Keriton has transformed from an award-winning prototype to a top pediatric-health innovation, being recognized and celebrated nationally. (You can learn more about Vidur’s journey here, and the company today here)
So this fall, we’re teaming up with the Penn Center for Health Care Innovation,the Penn Center for Innovation, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship and the School of Nursing to expand the real-world health route, as well as the social/civic route.
We invite you to join us as we hack our health for a better, faster, more accessible, and more equitable health experience. Past symposiums have included 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. Stay tuned for more details!
We're looking for opportunities to create 'smart cities' - think access to healthy food, parent engagement to support student achievement, infrastructure etc. Stay tuned for more details!
Applications are now closed for non-Penn students.
Penn Students will have a chance to register soon!
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 2016f and 2017s Statistics.
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].
How much will PennApps cost me?
Not only will we 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, we'll even help cover your travel. If you're not from the USA, we can pay for your travel up to $500, and can help you find sponsors to cover any difference (this has happened frequently in the past).
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). Consider bringing clothes that can get wet (I can neither confirm nor deny there may or may not be a water fight )
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’ll determine a reasonable cap. We will reimburse travel costs up to this cap—if you go over, we'll still reimburse the amount of the cap, but no more. If you’re not from the USA or Canada, we can reimburse up to $500 of travel costs.
When/Where can I hack?
PennApps will start with the kick-off ceremony at Penn Engineering Quad. 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.
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 top 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 including Nintendo Switches and Oculus Rifts, 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 section 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].
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.
When will applications close?
The application will close July 14th at 11:59pm EDT.
Who can apply?
Any college, university, or high school student 15 years old or older on September 1st, 2017 is eligible to apply.
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.
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.
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].