PennApps is a semiannual student-run hackathon held at the University of Pennsylvania.


Founded in the fall of 2009, PennApps was the nation's first student-run college hackathon. Since then, it has spurred a revolution in the way engineering students develop and showcase their skills, spawning an entire "league" of hackathons across the nation. In past years, over a thousand students from the U.S. and other countries like Switzerland, Canada, England, and Singapore have converged in Philadelphia for the spring and fall editions of the event for a weekend of creation and discovery.

PennApps has required participants to apply in order to conserve space and resources.

PennApps helped set off a boom in college hackathons, with many colleges across the country now hosting similar events.

Fall 2009

Cohosted by Penn's Women in Computer Science (WICS), the very first PennApps spanned a week with 17 teams participating. This laid the foundation for all future PennApps.

Fall 2010

This was the first 48-hour PennApps; though only 10 teams made it through, we think they did an amazing job! One standout app was SEPTA Now, which tracks SEPTA regional trains around the city so users can know exactly where trains are and if they're running late.[2]

Spring 2011

Also known as PennApps mobile, this hackathon centered on the creation of mobile apps. 23 teams pulled together their hacks on platforms including Android, iPhone, Mobile Web, Windows Phone, and through texting.[3][4]

Fall 2011

In Fall 2011, the focus was data. Sponsored by Venmo, Comcast, Twilio, Yahoo, Palantir, Tumblr, Mozilla, and 30 other companies and organizations, we challenged students to choose from a variety of publicly available data sets. Competitors were asked to uniquely and efficiently solve problems through the use of data. 40 teams presented at the demo session, and their hacks were truly innovative as were the winners.[5]

Spring 2012

Sponsored by Venmo, Coursekit (now Lore), Tumblr, Yahoo, and nineteen other companies, PennApps Spring 2012 centered on 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.[6]

Fall 2012

Over 300 people attended, more than double that of previous events. 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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

Spring 2014

Instead of increasing our size, we expressed our love for PennApps participants by focusing on improving the quality of the hacking experience for our Valentine’s day edition. We helped hackers express admiration for each other through candygrams and our PennApps Admirers page, honored the youngest elite coders with a high school hacker meet-up, and cherished our top sponsor Venmo with a parody ad campaign. We joined forces with Penn’s Architechs to provide dedicated space and parts to hardware hackers and Penn’s Design and Education schools for Stitchfest. After hacking for 36 hours straight in the Penn Engineering complex and demoing finished apps at the Penn Museum, The Homework Machine took the top prize.[10]

Fall 2014

PennApps X was the best PennApps yet, with incredible cutting edge hardware on hand, collaborations with Penn's Med & Design Schools and amazing hacks by the best hackers from around the world. With only a 30% acceptance rate, it was also the most competitive PennApps ever. We focused on making the experience for hackers as great as possible by doubling down on our mentoring efforts and organizing Code Weekend the weekend before PennApps to introduce first-time hackers to coding. We also brought in the team from Pagevamp (PennApps Fall 2012) to inspire hackers to build things that last. PennApps X - Fall 2014 was a major milestone for the hacker community, and we celebrated with special X themed gear, cakes and swag for the ages.[11]

Spring 2015

PennApps Winter 2015: PennApps XI was winter themed, and brought out the big guns with the first penguin-themed hackathon. The biggest PennApps yet, with over 1300 hackers, focused on making the most enjoyable hackathon for hackers, with great food (local delicacies such as Federal Donuts, Rita's, and Philly Cheesesteaks were standouts), great side events (Ice Skating with the penguin mascot) and penguin plushies for everyone. We also brought back Code Weekend and all-new workshops and mentors as resources to help hackers get started. The Final Expo moved to the historic Houston Hall and a joint Live Stream with MHacks took over the front page of The winning team lifesaber was from Barcelona.[12]

Fall 2015

PennApps XII broke all boundaries, admitting over 2000 hackers and taking place in the Wells Fargo Center. With a greater focus on community, students from schools around the Philadelphia area were automatically admitted allowing more students to enjoy the hackathon experience. The weekend was full of different workshops and meetups for hackers to discover more about the tech and hacking world. This PennApps also marked the beginning of Routes - themes that hackers could incorporate into their hack and that were showcased in different forms over the course of the weekend. The Civic Hacking Route, in collaboration with the City of Philadelphia and Code for Philly started a new PennApps tradition in hacking for social good. Great food and swag (including the platypus plushies everyone received at check in) were provided throughout the event. The Final Expo was on the main court and had to be split into two stages so all the participants could show off their finished hacks. In the end, FifthSense took first prize at the event.[13][14][15]

Past Winners

  • Winners from PennApps XIII (Spring 2016) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps XII (Fall 2015) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps XI (Winter 2015) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps X (Fall 2014) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps IX (Spring 2014) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps VIII (Fall 2013) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps VII (Spring 2013) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps (Spring 2012) can be found at .
  • Winners from PennApps (Fall 2011) can be found at .

Grand Prize Winners

Spring 20161stRAMEARTom Hartley, Rob Roy Fletcher, Emrehan Tuzun, Fu Yong Quah
Spring 20162ndLact-o-LogVidur S. Bhatnagar, Grishma Jena, Sneha Rajana
Spring 20163rdPillPalErnest Tavares, Sean Lynch, Varun Venkatesh, Elizabeth Silvestro
Fall 20151stFifthSenseEdward Ahn, Cyrus Tabrizi, Rajat Mehndiratta, Vasu Agrawal
Fall 20152ndGaitoradeVidur S. Bhatnagar, Paril Jain, Rishab Gupta
Fall 20153rdSemQueryAugust Trollbäck, Mary Karroqe, Benjamin Spiegel, Kevin Faust
Spring 20151stlifesaberMiquel Llobet, Daniel Martí, David da Silva Contin, Dario Nieuwenhius
Spring 20152ndCuriosityCaroline Hermans, Yousuf Soliman, Yeongwoo Hwang, Jordan Brown
Spring 20153rdFruit Ninja VR StyleMichael Liu, Ben Hsu
Fall 20141stFujiJoe Doyle, Maggie Bignell, Zach Latta, Avi Romanoff
Fall 20142ndMagic BoardRohith Varanasi, Jason Marmon, Niko Lazaris, Greg Carlin
Fall 20143rdQuitliKevin Lyman, Shankar Rao, Alexa Aranjo, Michael Watterson


Over the years, PennApps has attracted many sponsors. Sponsors include large corporations such as Apple, Google, Yahoo, Comcast, and Microsoft. Other notable sponsors include startup companies like Venmo, Dropbox, Foursquare, Soundcloud, and GitHub. Sponsor benefits include access to participants' résumés, recruitment materials, and promotion throughout the event.[16]