pennapps

While last year's PennApps drew a wide variety of participants, this year's event will be the largest to date, with over 2000 participants from 147 universities across 11 countries. | Courtesy of Andrew Mager/Creative Commons

Penn is about to be filled with thousands of hackers from across the globe, ready for 36 hours of weaving codes into technological tapestries.

Tomorrow kicks off the 12th biannual PennApps, the world’s largest and first student-run collegiate hackathon. Individual coders and teams of up to four people will spend the weekend finding innovative ways to use hardware and software to solve real-world problems.

PennApps XII will be the largest to date, with over 2,000 participants from 147 universities across 11 countries.

“We’ve never done something of this scale before,” head of PennApps marketing and press Devesh Dayal said. “We have a huge set-load of sponsors on board this time, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out...This time we’ve increased [the number of students] quite a bit because we’re all about inclusivity and including as many student hackers as we can.”

In addition to its relocation to the Wells Fargo Center this year, the hackathon will include new features and community-based initiatives.

Through a “route” system, hackers can choose to incorporate different themes into their hacks, such as design, humor, virtual/augmented reality and educational technology. Each category will have its own themed prizes, guest speakers and expert judges, as well as various activities and workshops.

This year, PennApps is pushing community involvement by automatically accepting all applicants from local high schools and colleges in the Philadelphia area — an initiative to grow the technological community. The hackathon has also introduced a social and civic hacking route in conjunction with the Office of Innovation and Technology in the City of Philadelphia government. This route will give students access to city data and allow them to work with government officials to solve problems.

PennApps stated in a press release that Mayor Michael Nutter may be coming to inaugurate the event.

“Hackathons like PennApps are a great place to learn new things about how engineering plays a larger role in society and how it’s important to go outside the classroom to build things that have a visible impact on society,” Dayal said.

Last year’s grand-prize winning creation was lifesaber, an app that helps first responders perform CPR. The app guides the rescuer with protocol: it determines if CPR is needed and gives feedback to make sure compressions are in sync, automatically calls 911 and provides the location of incident, alerts other app users nearby for assistance and provides Automated External Defibrillator (AED) locations.

“[PennApps is] a great place to hone your skills,” Dayal said. “You come in expecting to build something and it’s really common to come out building something you never thought you could have done before. ... There’s a major focus on learning. It’s great to see all the help that the hacks that are made can provide.”

After coding over the weekend, hackers will present their projects in a science fair setting on Sunday. Members of the public will be welcome to test out the inventions at the PennApps Expo.

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