PennApps XIV

Hacking for the Hack of It

September 9-11, 2016


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The College Difference

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.

A History of Excellence


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.


Routes will be back again this fall to provide you with additional resources 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 Health, Education, VR/AR, Cybersecurity, and Social & Civic Hacking. 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.


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 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 website holds tech talks, introductory guides, and more. We are here to help!

The PennApps Mentorship team can be reached at [email protected]. If you're thinking of mentoring at PennApps, check out our mentor guide for more information!


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.

Hacker Gurus

This PennApps, we’re bringing back Hacker Gurus - hackers who’ve been on the hackathon circuit before and are eager to share their knowledge can sign up to be Gurus and join teams of new hackers at PennApps. These teams will participate in the same way as everyone else with the added benefit of a hands on learning experience from someone who’s been doing this for longer than them throughout the weekend. We know hackathons can be intimidating but we want to start making them more welcoming to newcomers.

Applications for non-Penn students to apply to PennApps have closed.

Applications for Penn students are now open! Apply here!


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.


12:00 PMRegistration Opens to HackersLevine Lobby
2:00 PMGoogle: Polymer EventTBD
4:00 PMPhoto Booth: BeforeE-Cafe
6:00 PMOpening CeremonyIrvine
8:00 PMHacking Starts
8:00 PMHardware Checkout OpensMoore 100
8:00 PMShowersPalestra
8:00 PMDinner - DiAntonio'sLevine Lobby
8:00 PMGeneral Team FormationWu & Chen
8:00 PMHacker Guru Orientation Towne 100
8:00 PMFree SmashGreenberg Lounge
8:30 PMHacker Guru Team FormationTowne 100
9:00 PMWorkshop: Hackathon 101Towne 100
9:00 PMWorkshop: Civic Hacking - Hack4ImpactWu & Chen
10:00 PMWorkshop: iOS - WillowTreeWu & Chen
10:00 PMWorkshop: Android - WillowTreeTowne 100
11:00 PML'il Pop ShopLevine Lobby
11:00 PMWorkshop: Intro to Web Dev - HorizonsTowne 100
11:00 PMWorkshop: User Centered DesignWu & Chen
12:00 AMIce SkatingIce Skating Rink
2:30 AMLate Night Snack - PizzaLevine Lobby
7:00 AMShowersPalestra
8:30 AMBreakfastLevine Lobby
9:30 AMMini-HackathonBerger Auditorium
10:00 AM3D Printing and Laser CuttingRapid Prototyping Lab (RPL)
11:00 AMSmash TournamentsGreenberg Lounge
11:00 AMTravel Reimbursements2nd Floor Towne (between Towne and Levine)
12:00 PMLunch - DiAntonio'sLevine Lobby
1:00 PMWorkshop: Machine Learning APIs - HorizonsWu & Chen
1:00 PMWorkshop: Data Innovation and Its Role in Healthcare - Patrick FarrellTowne 100
2:00 PMHigh School Hackers MeetupBerger Auditorium
2:00 PMWorkshop: Intro to ArduinoWu & Chen
2:00 PMWorkshop: Node.jsTowne 100
3:00 PMWorkshop: RubyTowne 100
3:00 PMWorkshop: What investors don't tell you about pitching, by Dorm Room FundWu & Chen
4:00 PMDorm Room Fund Office HoursLevine 307
4:00 PMWomen's MeetupWu & Chen
5:00 PMHealth ForumWu & Chen
6:00 PM5K - Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase Shoemaker Green
7:00 PMShowersPalestra
7:30 PMDinner - Boston MarketLevine Lobby
8:00 PMFree SmashGreenberg Lounge
9:00 PMQuizzo - Sponsored by PalantirWu & Chen
10:15 PMCodeFightsTowne 100
11:00 PMFederal Donuts - Sponsored by BlackstoneLevine Lobby
2:30 AMLate Night Snack - Insomnia CookiesLevine Lobby
6:00 AMShowersPalestra
7:00 AMBreakfastLevine Lobby
8:00 AMHacking Ends
8:00 AMPhoto Booth: AfterHouston Hall
8:50 AMExpo 1Houston Hall
10:15 AMExpo 2Houston Hall
11:35 AMTop 30 Judging
12:00 PMLunch - DiBruno'sHouston Hall
12:45 PMHardware Check-inHouston Hall, Hall of Flags Balcony
1:30 PMClosing CeremonyIrvine



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.

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.


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?

Applications for non-Penn students to apply have closed. Applications for Penn students will open in August.

Who can apply?

Any college, university, or high school student 15 years old or older on September 1st, 2016 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.


When/Where can I hack?

PennApps will start 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 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].