Frequently Asked Questions

What is PennApps?
PennApps is the premier college hackathon, hosted every semester at the University of Pennsylvania. A hackathon is when 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 and graduate 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 you should 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 or come alone — there will be a place for you.
What if I'm a newbie?
PennApps has great opportunities for people new to hacking. If need help getting started, Penn Women in Computer Science has a mentoring program. 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! In fact, if you need assistance figuring out how to get here, see the next question!
How do I get to Philadelphia? Will my transportation cost be reimbursed?
We offer travel reimbursements to visiting hackers. 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. 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 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, and a sweatshirt which doubles as a pillow will come in handy, along with 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 and/or form teams, 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.
How does registration work?
Registration will open at 4 PM in Irivne Auditorium (3401 Spruce St) on Friday. Priority for choosing your team's hacking location will be first come first served at registration, so you'll definitely want to show up on time!
Where should I go during the event?
We have not yet finalized the schedule of events on Friday. The kickoff starts at 6 PM in Irvine Hall on Friday, where registration will still be going on.
What should I bring?
Laptop and charger, cellphone and charger, change of clothes, toothbrush.
What are the sleeping/showering arrangements?
Non-Penn students can request to be paired with a Penn student host. Non-Penn students should be prepared to bring their own sleeping bag, pillow, and toiletries if they plan on sleeping. We have organized for there to be space for hackers to sleep and shower in the Palestra nearby.Alternatively, there are plenty of benches, chairs, and tables for a quick nap in the Engineering Quad.
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 noon on Sunday in order to qualify for awards.
How does judging work?
We are working out the exact details, but teams will go through a first round of judging on Sunday morning. A panel of judges will rate your app based on creativity, technical difficulty, polish, and usefulness. The top 20 apps with the highest scores from the first round of demos will go to a final round of judging.
When are demos?
First round demos begin on Sunday morning, and the final demos will take place in Irvine Auditorium at 2 PM on Sunday.
Do you provide us with any technology?
Teams will receive credit for Amazon Web Services, to be able to host their hacks. We are also looking into supporting teams interested in making hardware hacks.
Apple will be on-site with iPads and iPod touches to borrow so you can test your iOS apps.