Aug 17, 2015

World’s Largest College Hackathon Coming to Wells Fargo Center

Two thousand of the world’s top young coders will descend on the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, September 4 through Sunday, September 6, battling for over $30,000 in prizes at the world’s largest collegiate hackathon: PennApps.

Rather than breaking into computer systems, this kind of hacking involves creating projects out of pre-existing parts and under demanding constraints. At PennApps, student teams will have just 36 hours to build the most innovative software and hardware products they can think of. Last year’s grand prize winners developed a smart-watch app that helps first-responders perform CPR; a crowd-favorite project involved hacking an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to automatically block ads in the real world.

Started by students at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2009, the world’s largest collegiate hackathon is now in its 12th iteration and is bigger and better than ever. Incubated in the Engineering campus’ classrooms, computer labs and hallways, the event has grown from a handful of Penn students to more than 2,000 from around the world, including students from Spain, Australia and Cameroon.

Seeing the need for growth, Penn Engineering partnered with Comcast to secure the change in venue. Over the weekend of September 4, they will make Wells Fargo Center their home, laboratory, workshop and pitch meeting.

"Comcast is committed to investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs and technologists, while inspiring change through media," said Comcast Chief Business Development Officer Sam Schwartz. "As we build the future Comcast Innovation + Technology Center in Philadelphia, PennApps give us an opportunity to highlight Comcast as innovative partners to 2,000 emerging technologists from around the nation."

"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," said Director of PennApps Pranav Ramabhadran. "This is an opportunity for us to showcase and continue to grow the community of builders, and show the world what hacking really means."

The Wells Fargo Center is Comcast Spectacor’s showcase arena at which technology-based features are often tested and perfected, thereby enabling the company to remain at the forefront of the sports and entertainment industry. The 21,000-seat home of the Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) and 76ers (NBA), features free Xfinity WiFi with 350 access points and 700 Bluetooth beacons. The system is equipped with one-gigabit-per-second dedicated Internet connection, meeting the needs of the world’s top young computer scientists and engineers as they race to develop a wide range of technology prototypes.

This year, hackers will compete in several thematic subdivisions: Design, Humor, Social and Civic Hacking, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Educational Technology and Sports and Entertainment. These categories, or routes, will feature a mix of field-specific expert judges and speakers, access to special resources, side events and prizes.

John Maeda, former president of the Rhode Island School of Design and Design Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, will be the keynote speaker for the Design route, and The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology is partnering with the Civic Hacking route. There, students will have access to governmental data and will work with city officials to solve problems with a social impact.

PennApps will also feature a health-hacking symposium, where mentors from industry sponsors as well as faculty and students from Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine will advise contestants on health-related problems that are in need of technological solutions.

After the final bell sounds, the hackers will present their results in a science-fair-like setting during the PennApps Expo on Sunday, September 6 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Members of the public will be able to tour the arena floor and try some of the weekend’s hardware and software products themselves. Free advance registration is required to attend at pennappsxii.eventbrite.com.

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