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What is PennApps X?

PennApps is the premier student-run college hackathon. More than a thousand student programmers from all over the world converge on Philadelphia twice a year for a weekend of creating and learning. Hackathons are about coding together to solve real-world problems. Students work in teams of up to four people for thirty-six hours to create a web, mobile, or hardware application. PennApps has been around for a long time, and we’re now celebrating our tenth iteration: PennApps X.

When is PennApps?

PennApps X will start in the evening of Friday, September 12th, 2014 with the kick-off ceremony and continue until September 14th with the closing ceremony and prize distribution. There will be events planned throughout Friday for those who arrive early. A detailed schedule of events and locations is posted below. You can even go ahead and mark your calendar for our winter event: January 16-18, 2015.

Who participates in PennApps?

All the coolest people interested in tech will be there. Participants are the top high school and college developers from schools across the US and other countries like Switzerland, Canada, England, and Singapore.

What’s the application process like?

We’re looking for creative and innovative people with a set of skills that can contribute to a project: mobile, web, hardware, design, or anything else really cool. We generally prefer people that have proven their abilities in previous projects, evident through Github links, project descriptions, or participation/awards in other hackathons. Applications for the Fall 2014 PennApps are over for non-Penn students. Watch out for PennApps Winter 2015, January 16-18.

Should Penn students fill out the application too?

Nope! We have a separate registration process for Penn students only. If you’re new to programming, we're running workshops for Penn students in the week leading up to the event.

Once I get accepted, what do I need to bring?

Need: Laptop and charger, cellphone and charger, sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries, a couple changes of clothes (nerdy shirts are particularly appreciated). Don’t need: a pre-determined team, an idea for an app, food or drink. Pleeeeaaaassseeee don’t bring: Firearms or other weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, soldering or similar equipment, animals (no matter how adorable).

When/Where can I hack?

All work eligible for prizes must be completed between Friday night after the kick-off and Sunday morning at the hacking location (Penn's Engineering School or Education Commons).

Will there be showers? TL;DR YES.

There will be showers available on Saturday from 9 AM to 12 noon and 4 PM to 7:30 PM, and on Sunday from 8 AM to 11 AM in Hutchinson Gym (next to the Palestra).

How much will PennApps cost me?

Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. We’ll provide you with a weekend’s worth of swag, meals, drinks, and snacks and a place to crash when you need a break from coding. In fact, we’ll even fully reimburse your travel (within reason, we'll send an email with details after you're accepted) if you’re coming from within the US. For students from international universities, we provide up to $500 per person and try to provide opportunities to help you get local sponsors to cover your trip.

What can I win?

It’s not about winning—it’s about learning and making friends that last for a lifetime (so everyone’s a winner!). If you’re thinking, “that’s adorable...but really,” then we’ve got you covered too. A panel of professional judges will select the best three apps based on the following criteria: creativity, technical difficulty, polish, and usefulness. Top prize is $5,000 plus tons of cool hardware. Most sponsors offer their own prizes too for specific categories, which they judge and fund themselves. You can view all prizes on our ChallengePost site.

I’m not a student, so how can I get involved?

Unfortunately, we can’t allow you to participate in the event or be on site during hacking. If you’re looking to mentor (i.e. someone with technical skills who’d be willing to help out participants during the weekend), you should reach out to us at [email protected]. Otherwise, you can see the finished products at the demos on Sunday (see the schedule below).

How is PennApps run?

PennApps is planned almost entirely by (sleep-deprived) University of Pennsylvania students, with some advice and assistance from our friends at Penn Engineering. One hundred percent of the funding for PennApps comes from corporate sponsor donations. You can find more information about sponsoring at our sponsor section.

What should I do if I have additional questions or just want to express my limitless gratitude?

Aw shucks. Well, if you really must thank us, or you have questions about anything we haven't covered here, shoot us an email at [email protected]


Important info for the weekend

Thursday - September 11th

Time Event Location
6 PM Mobile Goes Bananas Tech Talk Presented by WillowTree Apps Berger Auditorium
7 PM Leveraging Flow-Based Programming Tech Talk Presented by MIT Lincoln Lab Berger Auditorium
7 PM Cross-Platform HTML5 Tech Talk Presented by Microsoft Towne 100
8 PM Intro to Angular.js Tech Talk Presented by Tubular Labs Towne 100

Friday - September 12th

Time Event Location
1 PM Registration Opens Levine Lobby
2 PM Tech Talk Presented by Intel Towne 100
3 PM Tech Talk Presented by Clover Berger Auditorium
4:30 PM API Expo Irvine Auditorium
5:00 PM Google's Women in Tech Meetup Palestra
6 PM Opening Ceremony Irvine Auditorium
7:30 PM Chef's Table Dinner Provided by Quixey Levine Lobby
8 PM Hacking Begins Engineering/Education Commons
8 PM Mentoring Kick-off and Team Formation Wu and Chen Auditorium
8 PM Health Kick-off Berger Auditorium
10 PM Intro to iOS Presented by MakeGamesWith.US Founder Jeremy Rossmann Wu and Chen Auditorium

Saturday - September 13th

Time Event Location
12 AM Rita's Italian Ice Provided by Goldman Sachs Levine Lobby
1:30 AM Midnight Run Allegro
8:30 AM Au Bon Pain Breakfast Levine Lobby
11 AM High School Hackers Meetup Berger Auditorium
11:30 AM SmartThings Platform Demo Wu and Chen Auditorium
1 PM DiAntonio's Lunch Levine Lobby
3 PM Lil' Pop Shop Popsicles Provided by Comcast Levine Lobby
7 PM Boston Market Dinner Levine Lobby
8 PM How to Raise Money for Your Startup Presented by Quixey CEO Tomer Kagan Wu and Chen Auditorium

Sunday - September 14th

Time Event Location
12 AM Insomnia Cookies Provided by Apple Levine Lobby
7 AM Breakfast Levine Lobby
9:30 AM Hacking Ends Engineering/Education Commons
10:30 AM Expo Palestra
12 PM Di Bruno Bros. Lunch Palestra
2 PM Final Ceremony Irvine Auditorium


Getting your hands dirty

For the second year in a row, PennApps is partnering with The Architechs to put more focus on hardware hackers by providing resources and support to visiting hardware hackers at PennApps X. If you're interested in sponsoring the hardware section of PennApps X, then check out our hardware sponsorship document.

Many past PennApps hacks have included hardware and our goal is to give hardware and software equal importance at PennApps X. If you want to hack on it, we will have it for you. Additionally, for those of you that want to get more physical with your hacks, we will be providing access to a laser cutter.

Some of the hardware we will have at PennApps X for hackers to hack with include Microsoft Kinects, Parrot Drones, Estimote Beacons, Thalmic Myos, and an assortment of other sensors and supplies. Check out the full list of hardware at PennApps X here.

“Most people who do hardware also need to make use of software. I’d like to see it all at the same time to get a variety of things.”

Christopher Moody, Intel

"The smell of hardware was in the air at PennApps this year, with the UPenn hardware hackers group, The Architechs, joining the organizing group."

Michael Sutherland, Leap Motion

"PennApps was a terrific opportunity for us to meet students that already know and love Octopart, and introduce ourselves to new hardware hackers."

Janine Yoong, Octopart

Notable Hardware Hacks from the Past

Homework Machine - Spring 2014 Winner

Inventory - Spring 2013 Winner

Scratch Table - Spring 2012 Winner

uWave - Fall 2011 Winner


Hacking to heal

For the first time, PennApps participants will be hacking to solve health and medical problems. We have partnered with Penn Medicine to get medical professionals and programmers on the same page, so they can work side-by-side to fight the problems of an antiquated healthcare system. We're both educating coders about healthcare issues and helping medical students code by themselves. Staff from the Perelman School of Medicine, Penn Center for Innovation, and University of Pennsylvania Health System will be involved as mentors and hackers.

Just before the event starts, we will host a health and medicine fair where hackers can meet each other and our mentors, as well as learn about the data and hardware available. We will provide datasets/APIs, hardware, and lab access to any health hackers. At the event there will be some space dedicated to health hacking, and health-specific prizes.

If you have questions, email [email protected]. Sponsors can visit our health website for more information.


A tradition of excellence

  1. Fall 2009

    Fall 2009

    Cohosted by Penn's Women in Computer Science (WICS), the very first PennApps spanned a week! (Don't worry, participants were allowed to sleep.) 17 teams participated, and laid the foundation for all PennApps to come.

  2. Fall 2010

    Fall 2010

    This was the first 48 hour PennApps; though only 10 teams made it through, we think they did an amazing job! One standout app was SEPTA Now, which tracks SEPTA regional trains around the city so users can know exactly where trains are, and if they're running late.

  3. Spring 2011

    Spring 2011

    Also known as PennApps mobile, this hackathon centered around the creation of mobile apps. 23 teams pulled together their hacks on platforms including Android, iPhone, Mobile Web, Windows Phone, and through texting.

  4. Fall 2011

    Fall 2011

    In Fall 2011, the focus was data. Sponsored by Venmo, Comcast, Twilio, Yahoo, Palantir, Tumblr, Mozilla, and 30 other companies and organizations, we challenged students to choose from a variety of publicly available data sets. Competitors were asked to uniquely and efficiently solve problems through the use of data. 40 teams presented at the demo session, and their hacks were truely innovative as were the winners.

  5. Spring 2012

    Spring 2012

    Sponsored by Venmo, Coursekit (now Lore), Tumblr, Yahoo, and nineteen other companies, PennApps Spring 2012 centered around the theme of simplicity. ScratchTable won the grand prize: the team used a contact mike and their coding skills to turn any surface into a DJ turntable. Second place was Grassroutes, a hack that allowed anyone to put a widget on any website, giving users one-click access to their congressional representatives. All of the other winners can be found here.

  6. Fall 2012

    Fall 2012

    With over 300 students, we more than doubled in size. Sponsored by Venmo, Bain Capital Ventures, KPCB, and many more, PennApps 2012 Fall managed to churn out a future member of the YC '13 class, PayTango. Despite fierce competition, Java Auto Music won first place with the rest of the winners being just as impressive.

  7. Spring 2013

    Spring 2013

    With nearly 500 students, PennApps continued to hold its title as the top college hackathon. With Venmo, Dropbox, Microsoft, Andreessen Horowitz, and many other companies sponsoring, PennApps Spring 2013 was able to attract students from universities as far off as California (Stanford, Berkeley, etc.), Canada (Waterloo, Toronto) and even Switzerland (ETH Zurich), becoming the first PennApps to go international. First place went to Inventory and the rest of the winners can be found here.

  8. Fall 2013

    Fall 2013

    With around 1,100 students, we nearly tripled in size this time around. Sponsors including Venmo, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform allowed the best hackers to travel to Penn from around the world, including Switzerland (ETH Zurich), Hong Kong (HKUST), Israel (IDC Herzliya), and Singapore (NUS). We took over Penn Engineering and the sixth floor of Van Pelt library for hacking, and the Palestra on Sunday for an expo of the more than 200 incredible hacks. First place and $10,000 went to Swap and you can find the rest of the outstanding hacks here.

  9. Spring 2014

    Spring 2014

    Instead of increasing our size, we expressed our love for PennApps participants by focusing on improving the quality of the hacking experience for our Valentine’s day edition. We helped hackers express admiration for each other through candygrams and our PennApps Admirers page, honored the youngest elite coders with a high school hacker meet-up, and cherished our top sponsor Venmo with a parody ad campaign. We joined forces with Penn’s Architechs to provide dedicated space and parts to hardware hackers and Penn’s Design and Education schools for Stitchfest. After hacking for 36 hours straight in the Penn Engineering complex and demoing finished apps at the Penn Museum, The Homework Machine took the top prize (and you can find all the other awesome projects here).


The companies that make this possible

If you're interested in sponsoring PennApps X, then take a look at our . If you want to sponsor the Hardware part of our event, then check out our .

"Awesome work. This was probably the most well organized hackathon I have attended, and I was blown away by the quality of projects the students produced. We were thrilled to be a sponsor!"


"PennApps - where students make the impossible possible."


"PennApps is the gold standard for student-run hackathons."

           = Hardware
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