PennHacks competitors design tangible devices

The winning team designed a tablet allowing users to make music by drawing patterns

· September 15, 2013, 5:36 pm   ·  Updated September 15, 2013, 9:10 pm

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This weekend, Penn Engineering’s Detkin Lab hosted a hackathon you might not have heard much about — PennHacks.

With 26 teams and a total of 53 participants, PennHacks is a biannual, 40-hour-long competition where participants design and create tangible electronic devices and toys. Just like PennApps — the software hackathon that took place just a week ago — PennHacks provides a common space and abundant food and drinks for hackers to work uninterrupted on their projects.

The first-prize winners were College junior Kathy Zhou and Engineering junior Karthik Sethuraman. Their project, a “Raspberry Pi Audio Mixer,” enables users to produce music and other sounds simply by drawing patterns on a tablet.

Related: Top teams receive awards at PennApps Hackathon

Coming in second place were second-year Engineering graduate students Nirav Shah, Aayush Sharma and Soumyadeep Ghoshal, who designed a “virtual drum” that detects users’ hand motions and plays back corresponding sounds without a physical drum.

The third prize went to Engineering senior Romaine Waite and second-year Engineering graduate student Uriah Baalke. The team developed a device called “BlueFly,” a bluetooth-controlled helicopter that receives signals from users’ phones or computers and transmits signals to robots in different places.

PennHacks’ organizers, the Architects team — a group consisting of seven Engineering undergraduates — launched its first competition in February this year. “After seeing the success of PennApps, we felt the need for a hardware-based hackathon at Penn as well,” Engineering sophomore Xiuruo Zhang, a member of Architects, said.

The organizing group provides basic gadgets as well as tutorials to guide participants with limited hardware experience. “The hacking culture should belong to everyone,” Zhang said. “We don’t want beginners to be intimidated, so we provide support to make it easier to start.”

The competition is currently only available to Penn students.

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