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Spring 2014

Feb 14–16

in prizes

FREE transportation to Philadelphia, PA.
It all goes down February 14–16, 2014 at UPenn.
We'll provide the hack space, food, and awesome swag.


What is PennApps?

PennApps is the premier college hackathon, hosted every semester at the University of Pennsylvania. A hackathon is an event where people who are excited about programming come together for a weekend and collaborate to build cool things. Entrepreneurs, designers, and developers work in teams to create hacks and apps for web or mobile platforms — in our case, these creators are university students.

Who can participate?

PennApps is open to all current undergraduate, graduate, and high school students, including freshmen! You don't have to attend the University of Pennsylvania; you don't have to be a computer science major or even an engineering student, though it's best if you have some coding experience. You aren't required to have ever attended a hackathon before: we will have tech talks beforehand so you can ramp up quickly. You can come with a team, come by yourself and hack alone, or come alone and we'll help you find teammates..

What if I'm a newbie?

PennApps has great opportunities for people new to hacking. There will be tech talks and resources posted in the weeks leading up to the event. Mentors will be present at the event to help you with all aspects of your project, including tech talks during the hackathon itself.

Do I have to be a Penn student?

No — in fact, we'd love to have you here no matter where you're from! If you need assistance figuring out how to get here, see the next question!

How do I get in to PennApps?

You need to apply to PennApps. The application for non-Penn students is unfortunately closed for the spring 2014 event. Penn students can still apply through the month of January. (The application has been taken down temporarily, but it'll go back up again in the next week just for Penn students.)

How do I get to Philadelphia? Will my transportation cost be reimbursed?

We offer full travel reimbursements to visiting hackers we accept. However, we ask that you be reasonable and impose a few simple restrictions. If there is a bus route from your city to Penn, we will reimburse your bus or public transportation tickets. Due to the number of PennApps attendees, we try to bus hackers within a 7 hour radius. For those with longer trips for whom riding a bus is not really a viable option, we do pay for flights. We'll completely cover your plane ticket as long as you don't spend extravagantly — don't buy your tickets two weeks before the hackathon, no first class, don't buy a $900 ticket from the airline with the coolest logo if there's a reasonable $300 flight available, et cetera. If you have questions about travel, please email [email protected] and we'll figure out the best options for you.

What should I bring?

For starters, bring your laptop and charger. Bring your cell phone and charger too, and a power splitter if you have one! If you're coming from outside of Penn, you will want to bring a sleeping bag or blanket, and a sweatshirt which doubles as a pillow will come in handy, along with a change of clothes and the usual toiletries kit of course.

Do I need a team or idea to sign up?

Nope! We will have sessions to help people find team members, as well as an idea generation workshop to help people think of ideas to work on for the hackathon. So you should sign up regardless!

Do I have to be there the entire time?

Nope, you're allowed to get sleep. :) However, all your coding and work must be done at the site of the competition.

Will there be food?

Yes. The only thing you need to worry about is coding; let us take care of the rest. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and plenty of drinks (including energy drinks) will be provided throughout the competition at no cost to participants. We will be providing vegetarian options as well. If you have a specific food allergy or other specific need, contact us and we'll try to find a way to make it work for you.

Where should I go during the event?

We have not yet finalized the schedule of events on Friday.

What are the sleeping/showering arrangements?

Non-Penn students should be prepared to bring their own sleeping bag, pillow, and toiletries if they plan on sleeping. We will have a sleeping area set aside if napping under your table or on a nearby bench doesn't sound appealing. We had showers at the last PennApps (and they were a huge hit), so we're working on securing showers for this one!

Can I start working before PennApps starts?

No. Contestants are not allowed to work on their apps before the 48-hour period. If you want to prepare for the hackathon, focus on gaining experience with and knowledge of the tools you hope to use to build your application.

When are project submissions due?

All hacks will need to be completed by ten on Sunday in order to qualify for awards.

How does judging work?

Teams will go through a first round of judging on Sunday morning. There will be a science-fair-like expo, where participants stand at tables and show off their apps to other hackers, judges, sponsors, and members of the public. A group of judges will rate apps based on creativity, technical difficulty, polish, and usefulness while sponsors evaluate apps competing for their prizes based on their own criteria. The top 10 apps with the highest scores from the first round will go to a final round of judging, where teams will demo their apps in front of more than a thousand people, including a small panel of leaders in the technology world who will judge their projects based on the criteria above.

When are demos?

First round demos begin on Sunday morning at 11 AM, and the final demos will take place at 2 PM.

Do you provide us with any technology?

We are looking into supporting teams interested in making hardware hacks. We should have some Arduinos on hand (more details to come).

Spring 2014 Sponsors

Want your company logo here? Check out our sponsorship doc and get in touch.

Hardware Hacking

PennApps is putting more focus on our hardware hackers this PennApps and is taking Penn's hardware hackathon, PennHacks, under its wing. We're partnering with the Architechs, Penn's hardware hacking group and organizers of past PennHacks, to bring more resources and support to visiting hardware hackers and Penn hardware hackers.

ARM Octopart


Don't have your own hardware to hack on? We'll have plenty of microcontrollers, electronics equipment, and tools to hack on.

  • 50 assorted development boards, such as mbeds.
  • Electrical parts and supplies from the Octopart catalog.

More info coming soon!


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.


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.


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.


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.


More information about past competitions is available here.



We want to help you tell your story. Press is encouraged to reach out to us with questions and inquiries by email.



Fall 2013

Spring 2013

Fall 2012

More press from past competitions is available here.


Friday, 2/14




API Expo


Opening Ceremonies


Dinner (Real Meals)


Hacking Begins

Saturday, 2/15


Snack (Desi Chaat House)


Breakfast (ABP)


Lunch (Real Meals)


Dinner (Boston Market)

Sunday, 2/16


Snack (Insomnia Cookies)


Breakfast (assorted)


Hacking ends


Hack expo


Final demos