PennApps Spring 2013: Inventory, app that detects what's in your backpack, wins $4k at biggest university hackathon in the world - Technical.ly Philly

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Jan. 21, 2013 10:00 am

PennApps Spring 2013: Inventory, app that detects what’s in your backpack, wins $4k at biggest university hackathon in the world

Inventory, an app developed by UC Berkeley students that detects what’s in your backpack, took the top prize at this weekend’s PennApps, boasted as the largest student hackathon in the world. More than 450 students from as far as Zurich, Switzerland and Ontario, Canada hacked their way through the weekend for an opportunity to win […]

Inventory, an app developed by UC Berkeley students that detects what’s in your backpack, took the top prize at this weekend’s PennApps, boasted as the largest student hackathon in the world.

More than 450 students from as far as Zurich, Switzerland and Ontario, Canada hacked their way through the weekend for an opportunity to win nearly $20,000 in cash prizes, trips to visit various startup headquarters and a whole lot of iPad minis. The semi-annual event, founded in 2009 and completely organized by students, continues to grow in size: At PennApps Fall 2012, 320 student hackers attended.

musical toilet

PennApps hackers in the process of making their musical toilet. Yes, really. Read more on the PennApps’ blog. Photo from PennApps’ blog.

Projects ranged from the playful (a musical toilet, a coffee pot that emails you when its finished brewing) to the hardware-focused (a nice precursor to next month’s hardware hackathon PennHacks) to the developer-friendly, as the city’s Chief Data Officer Mark Headd pointed out.

The demo day format changed slightly from last fall’s event. Instead of letting all 119 teams demo, the teams were broken up into three groups, which demoed to a panel of judges that included local founders like RJMetricsBob Moore, Monetate‘s David Brussin and Cloudmine‘s Brendan McCorkle. From there, 20 teams progressed to a final round of demos in front of a different judging panel that included First Round Capital founder Josh Kopelman.

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Another difference was that rather than restricting the top three prizes to Penn teams and awarding a “Best Non-Penn Team” award, this year’s top prizes were open to everyone. [Updated 3:45 1/21/13: the top awards were never restricted to Penn teams, though in the past, PennApps has awarded a “Best Non-Penn Team Award”] One thing that did not change: PennApps continued its tradition of having many big-name sponsors like Facebook, Andreessen Horowitz and Microsoft.

The City of Philadelphia and its data were notably more present at this weekend’s PennApps. The city gave out an award for the top civic hack, which went to two teams: SmoothRide, an app that lets you find the best bike routes in the city, and Social Development & Urban Sustainabilitya tool that uses city data to predict the best places to plant trees, install bike racks and create new parks. Both teams will demo their apps for the mayor.

The PennApps winners were:

  • 1st Place: Inventory
  • 2nd Place: Virtual Perspectivean app built by students from ETH Zurich, that uses facial recognition to let you see things in 3D. After its demo, one judge asked the team how much of the app had been built on the plane to Philly. None, the developers said, we built it all this weekend.
  • 3rd Place: WebTube [use it here]. Built by a Penn grad student, WebTube lets you surf the Internet through an old-school TV. After the demo, Kopelman said, “I’m speechless.” WebTube also won the Audience Choice Award.

Find the full list of hacks here.

Read profiles of some of the projects on PennApps’ blog here, and watch the PennApps blog for a complete list of winners.

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes became Technical.ly's associate editor after reporting on the Philadelphia tech scene for four years. She's co-president of the Asian American Journalists Association Philadelphia chapter and a two-time Philadelphia News Award winner for "Community Reporting of the Year." The Bryn Mawr College grad lives in West Philly, likes her food spicy and wears jumpsuits often.

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