If you’ve ever wished a machine could do your homework for you, you’re in luck. Homework Help is a hack that can solve simple math problems and write the answers in your own handwriting.
It’s just one of the hacks that came out of PennApps Spring 2014. PennApps, the University of Pennsylvania’s student-run hackathon, is one of the largest and best-known in the country, according to both this year’s organizers and participants. College students from across the country, as well as high schoolers and international programmers, attend the 48-hour coding fest with the hopes of making something that might inspire or excite — and maybe getting a few hours of sleep.
This year, the PennApps organizers focused on improving the hackathon, rather than expanding its size.
“This is the first time we haven’t tried to expand,” said Brynn Claypoole, the director of the current PennApps executive team.
The number of participants at PennApps has roughly doubled every year since 2011. This year, the hundreds of participants demoed in the Penn Museum, spread throughout the historical exhibits across from Franklin Field.
“Instead of the biggest [hackathon], now we want to be the best,” said Claypoole.
The student organizers behind PennApps provide participants with space and power to hack for two days. They also give them free food and access to sponsors and mentors who can help them if they get stuck coding. This year, the mentors wore bright pink PennApps-branded trucker hats. That’s because this year, the PennApps crew did all their branding around Valentine’s Day.
The prizes are noteworthy, too. Here’s a list of the prizes awarded by PennApps to the top 3 teams:
Grand Prize: $5,000, as well as Pebble Steels watches, Philips Hue Starter Kits, Leap Motion Controller and Amazon Credit.
Second Place: $2,000.
Third Place: $1,000.
"Instead of the biggest, now we want to be the best."
Of all the teams that register, many will choose to present their finished hack at an expo on Sunday morning. Judges score the hacks, and then finalists are selected to demo their hack in front of a large audience, where the top three winners are selected. This year, there were only 10 finalists as opposed to the usual 20.
Here are this year’s top 10 finalists: (Find another wrap post by an attendee on Medium.)
Homework Help (Grand Prize Winner): This hardware hack can read basic math problems, solve them and write out the answers in your own handwriting.
Googolplex (Second Place): A hack for everyone who wishes Siri did more. With this third-party app, Apple users can use Siri to Venmo friends, play Spotify, Instagram something and adjust Hue lights.
PipeTeX (Third Place): A great tool for preparing documents with mathematical equations; allows user to create documents with the powerful typesetting program, LaTeX, but with more intuitive syntax.
Commodisense: A real-time price-tracker that sends the price of stocks and commodities to your phone.
Divvly: Allows friends to easily split the check at dinner. One user uploads a picture of the receipt and splits meal items among friends appropriately. Then everyone pays said person through Venmo.
Evolve: A tool for Android app developers that allows them to roll out updates without asking users to upgrade and without going through Google Play.
What I Cookup: An app that allows users to plan meals based on the food that’s actually in their kitchen. Users snap a pic of their ingredients and the app suggests recipes they could easily make.
Trump: Combines the fun of Apples to Apples with the lightning-fast pace of Snapchat. This game will have you and your friends constantly on the look-out for a better “Trump” card.
Pebmo: Integrates Venmo with your Pebble smartwatch. Pebmo searches for nearby friends using FourSquare and allows you to send payments from your watch.
And here are the winners of the prizes awarded by each PennApps sponsors:
Andreessen Horowitz: Individual Programming Challenge
Prize: Jawbone UP Band
Winner: Ryan Endicott
Blend: Best Photo Blended
$100 + 100 Snaps
Bloomberg: Best use of Bloomberg API
Winner: Stock Feel
DigitalOcean: Best use of DigitalOcean
1st Prize: $4,000 DO credit + iPad Mini Retina
2nd Prize: $2,000 DO credit
3rd Prize: $1,000 DO credit
Winner: Give Me The Tip
Dropbox: ‘It Just Works’ Prize
100GB Dropbox Space and a Pebble
Winner: Bets On
Dwolla: Best use of Dwolla API
Raspberry Pi starter kits
Facebook: Best of use of Facebook API
Expenses paid trip to Facebook HQ to compete in the Facebook Hackathon Finals
GameChanger: Best sports app
Intel: Best use of XDK
Galaxy Tab 3 for each team member
Mashery: Best app using Mashery API network
$200 Amazon gift card + awesome posters
MongoDB: Best use of MongoDB
$250 + MongoDB swag
Namecheap: Most “brandable” domain registered during hackathon
$ 250 Namecheap credit
Octopart: Best Hardware Hack
$250 in hardware from Octopart
Pebble: Best Wearable Hack
Rdio: Best use of Rdio API
2 years of Rdio Unlimited for each member
SendGrid: Best use of SendGrid API
4 Oculus Rifts