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ICYMI: Best Moments from PennApps Hackathon

More than 1,000 tech-savvy students absolutely killed it over the weekend at PennApps, where 200+ teams hacked tech projects around the clock before presenting and competing for a slew of prizes.

As event sponsors, we wanted to help throw the best hackathon ever. So we transformed a classroom into REDlounge: a pimped out, go-to spot for bleary eyed coders to crash on bean bag chairs, grab free swag and snacks, unwind with arcade games, or get advice from our expert PennApps mentors.

We also had the opportunity to select a winner for Most Useful Everyday App, which carried a cool $1,500 prize. We talked to lots of talented innovators working on impressive projects, and everyone who participated deserves a high five. It was a tough decision, but because we’re a bunch of travel junkies (and Beatles fans!) Day Tripper made the biggest impression on us and took home the prize. Way to go, guys!

Before the winners were announced, our VP of Engineering, Craig Slusher, took the stage to talk to the crowd about what we do at Red Spark and how we power our products. Check out his presentation!

Our team had a blast at the event, and we want to give a big thanks to all the participants and sponsors who made it possible. If you missed out, or just want to relive the weekend fun, hit up our PennApps photo recap and read on for our favorite highlights:

Quick Stats:

  • 1,600 applications were submitted, and 725 applicants were selected from around the world.
  • 600 non-Penn students competed from 100+ schools, including MIT, Columbia, Stanford, and Georgia Tech. 5 teams from outside North America flew in from Hong Kong, Singapore, Zurich, Switzerland, and Israel.
  • Participants ranged from grad school to high school students.
  • More than 60 PennApps sponsors contributed to the event, which helped reimburse travel expenses for students who commuted.
  • 40+ cases of Red Bull were consumed at Red Spark’s REDlounge.
  • 100+ mentors attended to help hackers on projects, including members of the Red Spark team.
  • In total, 204 hacks were built (a new record!). Check them out here.
  • Winners walked away with $30,000+ in cash and product prizes.
  • The $10,000 first prize went to Swap, a platform for developers to make live app changes without going through Apple’s time-consuming process. Their presentation caused quite a stir on Twitter.
  • 2nd place winners got $5,000 for Super Duper Mario, an app that uses your phone’s camera to create a realtime video background for a Mario game. Instead of running on bricks and grass, Mario travels along whatever is on the screen.

Most memorable moments:

  • Book Crooks software taps into Google Books full text for free–quite a ballsy hack for a Google-sponsored event! “My account’s been banned already,” one of the team members said with a laugh.
  • DeCrowder‘s silly antics had everyone smiling during their presentation.
  • ScreenShades, a browser extension for blocking spoilers, was inspired by a team member who had seen a Breaking Bad spoiler on Twitter. “What was the spoiler that inspired you to make it?” one judge asked, but the team didn’t spill.
  • Speaking of ScreenShades, it can also be used to block content that doesn’t interest you, like all that mindless hype about Miley Cyrus’ VMA twerk-fest.
  • Speaking of Miley’s twerk-fest, Token‘s team from Illinois used their voice-activated browser navigation software to search and play the infamous VMA performance on YouTube, sending audience members running for the doors (just kidding about that last part).
  • Singapore students built SoundMesh, which creates a surround-sound effect by combining speakers from nearby devices. A few people in the crowd had the app installed (including our software engineer), so if you listened closely you could hear the music pan from left to right in realtime through the crowd. “The hardest part of this project was the time sync,” said a member of the team.

What was your favorite PennApps moment? Tell us about it in the comments.

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