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Arts / Events / Hackathons

PennHacks: three winning projects from second hardware hackathon

Where other hackathons focus on computer software, the frenzied two-day event that was PennHacks showcased student abilities to build now-you-can-touch-it hardware.

As Executive Director of PennHacks, Joe Trovato hosted the demo for the finished hacks at the University of Pennsylvania

Fresh off of the heels of the success of another PennApps, engineers at the University of Pennsylvania were at it again last weekend with its newer complement PennHacks.

Where PennApps is one of the world’s largest software events of its kind, the frenzied two-day hackathon that was PennHacks showcased student abilities to build now-you-can-touch-it hardware.

“Anybody with a laptop can do a software hack,” said cofounder Joe Trovato of the differing events. “My goal with this hackathon is to essentially raise awareness about hardware hacking and tell people that this stuff is available and there’s a lot of innovation to be done.”

It’s part of the country’s growing interest in maker culture. Students involved in the second PennHacks hackathon were provided equipment from the Engineering Department at Penn’s Detkin Laboratory.

Two dozen teams comprised of roughly 50 Penn students made up the field for the PennHacks, aiming to be biannual like its bigger brother PennApps. Organizers mentioned just a third of the capped 150 attendees came and stuck around for the weekend, though Technically Philly remembers PennApps before it had a 1,000 attendees.


Judging the contest and dispersing the $3,000 in prize money were Penn professor Andre DeHon, maker space NextFab Studio’s Ross Kessler, Scholly founder Christopher Gray representing the DormRoom Fund and Oracle hardware engineer and Penn Alumni Nick Howarth.

The winners were as follows:

  1. Raspberry Pi Audio Mixer, built by team “Richard Parker” made up by Kathy Zhou and Karthik Sethuraman. This piece of hardware allows users to create music by converting drawings on a tablet screen into audio.
  2. Virtual Drum, built by team “Hex on the Beach” made up by Nirav Sah, Soumyadeep Ghoshal and Aayush Sharma. Using a modified Xbox Kinect the team created a drum set that one could use simply by moving their hands to corresponding virtual drums.
  3. BlueFly, built by Romaine Waite and Uriah Baalke. A remote controlled helicopter that is operated by Bluetooth signals sent via cell phones and computers.
Companies: University of Pennsylvania
People: Joe Trovato / Christopher Gray
Projects: PennHacks / Philadelphia Neighborhoods

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