Move over, Silicon Valley — with the recent growth of PennApps, Penn is putting Philadelphia on the tech world map.
This year has partnered with Comcast to relocate the 12th biannual PennApps — the largest collegiate hackathon in the country— to the Wells Fargo Center. From Sept. 4 through 6, over 2,000 top coders from across the globe will gather together in the near 21,000-person-capacity stadium to compete for fame, glory and over $30,000 in prizes. The move highlights the collegiate hackathon’s vast growth over the years.
Instead of hacking websites and secret files, hackers at the PennApps XII hackathon will use their skills to create the most innovative software and hardware apps possible in a matter of just 36 hours.
Founded in 2009 by a few Engineering students with a passion for coding, PennApps spurred the introduction of leagues of hackathons across the country since then.
“We’ve gone from 17 students who wanted to work together for a weekend to being able to accept only a small fraction of the people that apply to come to PennApps,” PennApps Director Pranav Vishnu Ramabhadran said.
The number of student hackers participating this year is up from around 1,500 last year to over 2,000 this year. Devesh Dayal, head of marketing and press at PennApps, believes that the new move to the stadium will help bring PennApps and coding to a larger worldwide stage.
“Moving to Wells Fargo increases our national reach over anything. While we have a huge reach in Penn Engineering, with Wells Fargo we also gain the huge title spots of Comcast ... so any hack at PennApps can expect to get a lot of publicity over what they made, especially if they make it to a rank position,” Dayal said.
Dayal added that the increased exposure is beneficial for students who want to work in the tech field. PennApps sponsors such as Microsoft, Apple and Google provide opportunities for students to show off their work, and it is not uncommon for students to cite their work at PennApps on their resumes, Dayal said.
After a positive experience working with Comcast last semester for the 11th PennApps, the choice to partner with Comcast and the relocation to the Wells Fargo Center seemed like the logical next step for the growing size of the hackathon. The stadium offers free Xfinity WiFi with 350 access points and 700 Bluetooth beacons and is equipped with one-gigabit-per-second dedicated Internet connection, to satisfy the needs of the coders.
“Comcast is committed to investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs and technologists, while inspiring change through media,” Comcast Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz said in a press release. “PennApps give us an opportunity to highlight Comcast as innovative partners to 2,000 emerging technologists from around the nation.”
The news of the move comes almost a year after Comcast’s announcement of construction of the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center in Philadelphia, a new home for its growing workforce of technologists, engineers and software architects.
Dayal believes that the growth of the competition will help to make Philly an “it” location for tech.
“Philadelphia’s already becoming a huge tech storm. Revamps have been done for the city to build a tech street. It’s definitely making a name for itself,” Dayal said. “With PennApps, the way we’re helping out is that we’re working with a lot of local focuses to groom Philadelphia’s local tech climate and atmosphere.”
While PennApps is helping Philadelphia make a tech name for itself, individual participants find personal reward in the coding experience.
“It’s amazing to sit and try to hack something. You appreciate the grander scale of things and how the things you build actually play a larger role in the society you live in and the world you’re working in and not just as a dorm room hack but something that can impact the future,” Dayal said “And I think the Wells Fargo Center and its site is a pretty good embodiment of that idea.”
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