The Penn undergrads — Ana Mei, Jocelin Lee and Angela Yu — won the $4,000 first prize, which also includes a trip to Google NYC to demo their project and an automatic entry into the Facebook college hackathon finals. The team demoed their tool, J.A.M. (Java Auto Music), to an awed crowd. One team member played a simple riff on the saxophone, and like magic, the sheet music transcription appeared on the screen.
The semi-annual event, launched in 2009 and completely organized by students, had its biggest jump in attendance between hackathons, according to graph shown by Venmo cofounder Andrew Kortina, a Penn alum. Venmo has been a repeat sponsor of PennApps.
Attendance doubled since PennApps Spring 2012 with 320 hackers attending from as far as Montreal and California. There was also a large University of Michigan showing, with many presenters yelling “Go Blue!” after they finished. Co-organizer Pulak Mittal, a Penns sophomore, said turnout “far exceeded expectations,” as the organizers expected 200-250 hackers to show up.
The hackathon had more than 40 sponsors, including big names like Andreessen Horowitz, the New York Times and Facebook and awarded more than $12,000 in prizes.
Mittal said those numbers might make PennApps the biggest undergraduate hackathon in the world.
The weekend-long event culminated in a marathon three-hour long demo session. Nearly 100 teams were listed on the demo schedule and each team had a strict 75 seconds to present. Projects ranged from hacking the Penn course catalog to a party-planning app to a candidate-comparing app, leading Sarah Cordivano to quip: “Oops you guys went to the wrong hackathon this weekend.” (See our coverage of the weekend’s other hackathon, Hacks for Democracy, here.) There was also plenty of dancing to the viral hit Gangnam Style.
Here’s an incomplete list of the more than 20 awards presented, many of which were sponsored by specific brands:
First Prize: J.A.M., a music transcriber
Second Prize: Snap Site, which creates a sleek website for your company with only one click
Third Prize: PassWarp, which builds unique passwords
Top non-Penn team (the top three prizes go to Penn teams): PayTango, a fingerprint payment system
- Lore’s Most Ingenious Award: Snap Site, which creates a sleek website for your company with only one click
- Best Use of SendGrid API: Emailr, which turns your inbox into a social network
- Venmo’s Dead Simple Award: It’s a Date, which uses social media to help you figure out what to do on a date. It probably also helped that the team added that they wanted to include a functionality that allowed you to Venmo your date for half the bill if you didn’t particularly like him or her.
- 10Gen’s Easy to Use Award: Notable, a tool to take better class notes.
- 10Gen’s Best use of MongoDB Award: PayTango, a fingerprint payment system
- Best Use of Filepicker.io: Alchemy, which analyzes your documents to create a wiki game
- Yahoo’s Best Mobile App Award: Perimeter, which can control household devices
- Best Use of Mashery API: Just Ask For It, which aggregates all kinds of media
- Zynga’s Award for Bay Area Favorite: Batt Signal, which tells you when your friends’ cell phone batteries are running low
- Bain Capital Ventures’ Award for Most Delicious UI: Facebook for Grandma, which optimizes the social network for all Grandma’s desires
- User’s Choice: PayTango, a fingerprint payment system
- AddThis’ Award for Most Viral: BuddyHack, which turned into HackMyFacebook, after getting to the top of Hacker News and then getting kicked off Facebook
- NextDocs’ Life Sciences Award: TrollSpice, which allows you to use your body as an input sensor
- Facebook’s Award for Best Use of Social Data: SnapSite, which creates a sleek website (using Facebook) for your company with only one click
- Andreessen Horowitz’s Award for Most Technically Challenging: J.A.M., a music transcriber
- Dropbox’s Award for Most Helpful: Upenn.co, which hacked the Penn course catalog
- Best Use of CloudMine API: TruckMeNow, which helps you find food trucks
- Organizer’s Choice: lpControl, see video below
Updated 9/18/12 to add a map showing from where PennApps hackers came.