Putting on PennApps: 2 days and about $200,000

Top teams will take home prizes totaling $30,000 in value

· February 13, 2014, 9:10 pm   ·  Updated February 14, 2014, 5:19 pm

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Forty-eight straight hours of hacking starts Friday evening.

This weekend, the engineering quad will welcome over a thousand hackers for the eighth PennApps, a collaborative computer programming event that first took place on campus in fall 2009. Top teams will take home prizes totaling $30,000 in value.

Out of the 2,500 students who applied for the competition this year, 1,300 were accepted. The committee that organized PennApps expects a total turnout of 1,200 students. The committee has 10 executive board members and about 50 members in Logistics, Sponsors, Outreach and Marketing.

“Our event is unique because we issue reimbursement of transportation to everyone who comes, so we cannot take everyone who wants to come,” said Engineering junior Brynn Claypoole , director of the event. The selection process was based on each applicant’s GitHub profile, LinkedIn profile, past project description and hackathon experience.

Penn students will take between one-third and one-fourth of the seats — a decrease from the last event, which saw 550 Penn students.

“We took a lot of outside people this time. We changed the marketing for the event,” Claypoole said. “Last time we marketed towards everyone,” she said. “This time we are marketing more towards people who know how to program.”

The organizers hope that even experienced student programmers learn more about making apps at this year’s PennApps.

“This event is for the best of the best coming from all over the country,” Claypoole added.

She hopes that another event, targeted at beginners, will happen later this semester. “I am actually trying to plan a separate event that will be about teaching you how to code over a weekend, ” Claypoole said.

Who are the hackers?

Hackers will travel to Penn from Singapore, England, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia and Portugal. There will also be “a full bus of people” from Toronto and Waterloo. Girls will constitute approximately 10 percent of the attendees, based on average female attendance at collegiate hackathons. There will also be around 40 high schoolers, a big increase from previous events. Approximately 15 percent of attendees will be masters or Ph.D. students.

Financing PennApps

PennApps has 38 sponsors this year, including Venmo, Dropbox, Facebook, Google and Goldman Sachs.

“We cold-emailed hundreds of companies this time. Usually we email recruiters or University relations specialists for companies that are related to tech,” Claypoole said.

“After the event, we will see what the actual cost is, especially the transportation. Half of our budget is for transportation,” she said. She estimated that the whole event will cost $200,000.

Although Penn does not fund the hackathon, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences provides resources and access to administrators to ensure a successful event. The school also provides furniture, including 300 to 400 tables.

Shelter and sustenance

Hackers will be able to take rests in basement hallways, using the 80 air mattresses bought by the organizing committee.

Caters include Desi Chaat House, Au Bon Pain, Boston Market and Insomnia Cookies. “It’s my strong belief that we want to give people a variety [of food] to keep them happy,” Claypoole said.

This year, PennHacks, a hardware hackathon, will take place at the same time as the PennApps competition. PennHacks will occur in two labs in the Engineering quad where the necessary  equipment is available.

Correction: This article was updated to show that admission to PennApps is decided based on a number of factors including past projects, not the person's project idea for PennApps, as was stated in a previous version of the article. Additionally, previous versions of this article's headline stated that PennApps costs $200,000. The headline was updated to show that this is an approximate number. The article also stated that a quarter of PennApps attendees are Penn students. The article has been updated to show that in fact one quarter to one third of attendees are Penn Students. The previous version of this article also said that teams of hackers are coming from Mexico to PennApps this year. The article was updated to show that this is not correct.  

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