(Photo by Tony Abraham)
Earlier this month, 1,119 student hackers from across the globe gathered at the University of Pennsylvania for PennApps X.
Student engineers, designers and developers from schools such as UC Berkeley, MIT and Stanford, and countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland, faced off in the largest student hackathon in the world.
Now in its tenth installment, this fall’s PennApps hackathon boasted a stacked sponsor roster. Companies such as Quixey, Apple, Google, Facebook, Venmo and Microsoft contributed over $30,000 in prizes ranging from cash to hardware. Additionally, most sponsors dispersed emissaries to Philadelphia for the weekend.
Tasked with mentoring young hackers in need of gentle guidance, these mentors traversed Penn’s campus all weekend long, seeking fledgling developers in need of a helping hand. At PennApps, it’s not uncommon for tech firms to snatch up promising talent.
Each of the 239 projects submitted were allotted 48 hours to evolve from idea into functional application. A panel of judges evaluated the projects on the following criteria: originality, technical difficulty, usefulness and polish. The top ten projects were then judged by Elliot Menschik (DreamIt Health managing partner), David Pakman (former eMusic CEO) and Andrew Rosenthal (Jawbone) with three of the ten selected for top prizes.
While the majority of projects sought solutions to existing problems or issues (a Google Glass app that recognizes objects like a dollar bill and translates the image into speech, an app that detects early symptoms of scoliosis), other projects were developed purely for fun (one project turned the original Pokemon game into an MMO, pitting you against your Facebook friends in real time).
The winning project were:
- 3rd Place: Quitli, a smart pin that utilizes accelerometers to track statistics about your lifestyle. Tagged “The FitBit for shit you’d like to quit” by the team, Quitli will notify you when you’re slouching and log how much of your money goes into fast food. Plus, a smoke detector keeps tabs on how many cigarettes you’ve been sucking down. Quitli will even make your bad habits public knowledge by publishing your stats to Facebook. (Prize: $1,000, Android Wear watches and Raspberry Pi Model Bs.)
- 2nd Place: Magic Board is a hands-free electric longboard controlled by a Thalmic Myo, an armband that powers gesture controls. Watch this demo. Except for one college student from Texas, the Magic Board team is comprised completely of high school students. (Prize: $2,000, Android Wear watches, Raspberry Pi Bs and Oculus Rift DK2s.)
- 1st Place: Fuji, comprised of three Carnegie Mellon students and one high schooler, makes iOS app development easily accessible for those operating without a Mac. Where there’s a web browser, there’s a way. Developers can build their apps and immediately view them in a an iPhone simulator. (Prize: $5,000, Android Wear watches, Raspberry Pi Bs, Oculus Rift DK2s, Dell Tablets, Leap Motion controllers and all-expenses-paid trips to Rocket Fuel HQ and Venmo HQ with a chance to demo at the latter.)
The next PennApps hackathon will be held in January 2015.