Some PennApps prizewinning teams continue to develop their apps
One team's app appeared in The New York Times and other publications
March 11, 2013, 10:36 pm·
Although the frenzy of the PennApps hackathon ended two months ago, several of the prizewinning teams are still developing their apps.
Since the 48-hour hackathon, the team comprising of Kent State University students Daniel Gur, Camden Fullmer and David Steinberg has devoted even more time developing their online hack FaceWash. The hack was awarded the “10gen: Best Hack for Students” award of $500 in the hackathon.
The app goes through a user’s entire Facebook history, flagging any content that may be undesirable. Users can then view the flagged content and delete or privatize the posts for a “newer, cleaner you,” as advertised on the website.
Now renamed SimpleWash, the team has added Twitter capabilities as well as several language options to the app, and plans to develop new features such as image recognition in the future.
The app, created from scratch during the hackathon, was first launched publicly when the team presented it at the PennApps top 20 demo session.
“By the time we had got off the stage, we had several tweets about us,” Gur said in an email. “We then found out about four hours later that a blog post was put up on The Next Web, which had a few hundred shares.”
The app was launched to enthusiastic applause from the PennApps audience, but the positive reception didn’t end there. Since the launch, the app had over 200,000 unique users within the first two weeks. It was rated as “App of the Week” by ABC News and appeared in The New York Times, LA Times, PC Mag, Mashable and Forbes.
The team plans to use its $500 worth of prize money to pay for the development costs of the app, such as domain names, website hosting and the Limited Liability Company registration.
However, not all teams in PennApps started off with the idea of developing their hacks in the long run.
Third place winning app WebTube, developed by Engineering senior Nop Jiarathanakul, is a “funny little web app that lets you browse the internet through an old CRT TV.” He went into PennApps hoping to have fun working on a small project.
“For me, WebTube was just a fun little toy,” he said in an email.
The app was reviewed positively by the judges, and eventually won the third place title and $1,000 in prize money. Jiarathanakul does not have plans to further develop the app, but is planning to utilize the prize money for a good cause, donating $50 to Wikipedia and at least $200 to another nonprofit organization.
The PennApps team comprising of University of California, Berkeley sophomores Richie Zeng, Nelson Zhang, Vaishaal Shankar and Jianwei Leong worked on their first place winning hack Inventory quite extensively after the hackathon. However, for most of them, it was the first time they’ve committed to improving a product after a hackathon.
Inventory is a hardware device utilizing cutting edge radio frequency identification technology that is placed into a backpack to keep track of a user’s important items. A linked app notifies the user of the contents in the backpack, and reminds the user if anything is missing.
Since the hackathon, the team has been working on removing bugs in their software app, and improving the battery efficiency and range of the sensor in the hardware component of their hack.
The team plans to use the prize money of $4,000 to purchase sample hardware to test their hack, and has gleaned valuable advice from PennApps judges.
They also hope to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the hack to gauge the public’s interest in the product, shipping it to interested buyers over the summer. Kickstarter is an online platform for consumers to preorder products in development, with the profits going towards completion.
“By the time we launch on Kickstarter, it’ll probably be too late to ride on the publicity from PennApps,” Zeng said in an email, “but winning PennApps is definitely good validation for our product and team.”