Penn Apps Hackathon

Penn Apps

I spent the last weekend wandering around Upenn checking out their Penn Apps event. From their site:

“PennApps is the premier college hackathon, hosted every semester at the University of Pennsylvania. A hackathon is an event where people who are excited about programming come together for a weekend and collaborate to build cool things. Entrepreneurs, designers, and developers work in teams to create hacks and apps for web or mobile platforms — in our case, these creators are university students.”

It was much larger than I had anticipated, and had students from all over the world. The whole event was perhaps the largest hackathon that I’ve been to, and if you’re a student, I’d definitely suggest checking it out next year. They even pay for your travel, so you’d be a fool to not take advantage of it.

If you had your project on display and want me to show it off here, get in touch with me and I’d love to cover it. I also host a podcast for developers to showcase their work, called the Indie Dev Podcast, but I’m about to start one for students as well. If you’d like to be on and promote something you’re working on, then get in touch with me.

Some cool projects I saw included:


It looked like a screen saver from the 90s, where mult-colored boxes drawn on a black background were constantly moving toward your face. it was done on a Mac using OpenGL and the boxes were drawn using ACSII. Definitely a neat project.


Locating and purchasing bras for large bosom is a bit of a problem in the US. They are expensive (often as much as $75!) and difficult to find. One student created this app in the browser which notified the user when inventory for such products is back in stock and at an affordable price. Certainly a niche market, but I found it pretty interesting nonetheless.

Cloud Spread

A few students from the University of Maryland put this together, and it allows you to deploy your Android app to the cloud, then pull it down to a number of Android devices which are listening for an update to the code. I’ve used something similar with App Builder, where you could hold your fingers on the app for three seconds and it would pull down any changes as well. Right now they have it working as an extension to a Java IDE, and I was impressed!


This really clever iPhone app allowed friends to divvy up a bill quickly. If your college experience was anything like mine, you’ve run into this problem on a pretty regular basis. You start by taking a picture of the receipt, the app then reads the text and separates each line item, which you can then drag your friend’s faces onto, and they are then notified on their phone and can pay via the in-app currency. Tax and Tip are calculated in too, so there is never any argument about who owes what. It was surprisingly smooth and seamless too, in addition to having a really pretty interface. You can find a link to their site, here. 


Logging into multiple services can be a problem, especially when you need to remember your username and password for each one. This Chrome extension resolves that by taking a picture of your face one time, then auto-logging you in each time you approach your computer. During the initial setup you give the username and password to various social networks (Twitter, Google+, etc) and once the image scanning software recognizes you, it logs in.



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.