World’s largest collegiate hackathon PennApps moves to Wells Fargo Center


PennApps, claimed to be the world’s largest collegiate hackathon, is taking over the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for its 12th edition from September 4 to September 6.

The hackathon began in 2009 as a project by students at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science with little more than a dozen students taking part. Now organisers are expecting more than 2,000 attendees from as far afield as Spain, Australia and Cameroon to fill the 19,500 capacity Wells Fargo Center.

The arena will be kitted out with free Xfinity Wi-Fi, comprising 350 access points and 700 Bluetooth beacons through title sponsor Comcast. According to chief business development officer Sam Schwartz, PennApps is an opportunity to highlight the media giant as “innovative partners to 2,000 emerging technologists from around the nation.”

The 12th PennApps features seven subdivisions for hackers to work on: design, humour, social and civic hacking, virtual and augmented reality, educational technology, and – fittingly for an arena which hosts Philadelphia’s ice hockey and basketball teams – sports and entertainment. Last year’s winners created a smartwatch app which helps first responders to an emergency perform CPR, while another highly commended project hacked an Oculus Rift headset to automatically block adverts in the real world.

“Rather than breaking into computer systems, this kind of hacking involves creating projects out of pre-existing parts and under demanding constraints,” the press material explains. “At PennApps, student teams will have just 36 hours to build the most innovative software and hardware products they can think of.”

Previously, PennApps was held on Penn’s campus. The move to a professional sports stadium showcases just how far the event – and hackathons in general – have come.

Members of the public are invited to tour the PennApps Expo on September 6 to test drive some of the hardware and software products created during the hackathon. Registration in advance is required however – you can book your free ticket here.

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