Student Hackers Rock UPenn Campus


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Nearly 350 students packed into the Quad at the University of Pennsylvania in Phildelphia two weekends ago to participate in the largest student run hackathon in the country, PennApps. The hackathon brought together over 90 exclusively student teams from all across the US.  Teams worked hard for 48 hours with a few twists and turns along the way, including a massive pirates vs. ninjas nerf gun fight at 2AM (which I tragically missed!). Despite that disappointment, PennApps massive scale brought out some great talent and resulted in some amazing hacks!

The top three teams at the event took home over $7,000 in prizes and there was another $5,000 in other prizes that was divided up amongst the other teams.  You can find the full list of hacks from PennApps on Hacker League, but here are just the top three:

  • PassWarp – Uses a dynamic login system that changes passwords using formulas set by the user. Brought home 3rd place and the $1000 prize
  • Snap Site – Creates a website using only a company’s Facebook page. Won 2nd prize and $2000.
  • J.A.M (Java Auto Music) – An app that can convert wav files and live music into sheet music. $4000, 1st prize, a trip to demo their hack at Google NYC, entry into the Facebook college hackathon finals, and automatic entry into Greylock Hackfest 2.

There were also several awesome hacks powered by Sendgrid.  Here  are a couple of my favorites:

  • AlphaMail – An easy to use email and newsletter editor that uses variables and an impressive text editor so users don’t have to work with traditional languages.
  • Pandorify – Utilizes the thumbs up feature in Pandora to create playlists in Spotify.

The prize for best app powered by Sendgrid went to Josh Wilson, Jason Mow, and Stefan Zhelyazkov with their hack Emailr. Emailr gives users the best of both worlds combining email and social networking into one app. Users can share stories, photos, news, and much more just like they could on any social networking site.  Their team won a year of free hosting with Linode for their app!

Overall, the 6th PennApps was a big success (in more ways than one).   It brought out a huge crowd, great wifi coverage, plenty of food and drinks, and even a whole lot of nerf.  The student organizers really outdid themselves and I’m certainly very impressed by the way things came together.   Really looking forward to what these hackers will have in store for the the Spring Semester!


Swift is a developer evangelist at SendGrid who is based out of NYC. He is one of the founders of Hacker League and tweets as @SwiftAlphaOne. Follow him there and check him out at http://theycallmeswift.com.

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