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    PennApps is a 48-hour hackathon. This is the site for PennApps Fall 2011.


    Announcing Date: September 16-18

    PennApps Data will take place on the weekend of September 16-18th, at the Towne Building in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.  Specific announcements for the start/end time as well as preceding tech talks will follow in the coming weeks.

    This should help clarify which weekend to label GONE HACKING on your calendar.


    The Data Explosion

    Check out Robert Moore (co-founder of RJMetrics)'s exciting talk on from TEDxPhilly about data and how it's shaping the way we interact with the world.


    PennApps 2011: Data Hackathon

    Following in the spirit of last semester's mobile focus, we're excited to announce Data as the focus for the Fall 2011 PennApps hackathon.

    Why Data?

    Data is everywhere. Data is your text messages, your search history, your documents; practically anything you interact with on a daily basis. Data can be private like your credit card information, or public like a stock ticker.

    [Data growth projections for the next 4 years, courtesy of EMC]

    We produce new data all the time, usually unintentionally or without even thinking about it. Last year alone we created and replicated 1.2 zetabytes of data, and that number is growing exponentially.

    New Sources

    Hand in hand with greater data creation, more data sources are becoming easy to work with. From the New York Times or Wikipedia opening up their archive for queries, to governments (including Philadelphia) inviting developers to take advantage of their data sources, data is becoming increasingly easier to obtain. At least two companies have been started with the explicit premise of organizing and presenting data to developers.

    So, this is the challenge and the opportunity presented by the rapid rise and availability of data: how do we make sense of it all and how do we use data to improve the world?

    [FlyOnTime uses flight history data to find flights likely to be on time. ]


    At the beginning of the hackathon, students will be presented with a variety of publicly available data sets. The first and most important part of any good PennApps Data submission will be the problem it seeks to solve, and the effectiveness with which it addresses that problem. PennApps Data demands that competitors find interesting problems that can be solved uniquely and efficiently through the use of data.

    Where that data comes from is up to the individual teams. Although we expect to see big data or data with rapid growth, the sources of that data can range from APIs to crowd-sourcing to sensor data. Be creative; any appropriate source is fair game, and the limit to what you can learn and build when you start integrating data sources is endless.

    [SeptaNow, the Student Choice Award Winner from PennApps 2010, helps find trains in the Philadelphia area]

    Cool Applications

    Interested in participating? Sign up here!
    Zach is a recent Penn graduate, spending his summer doing data analytics for quantiFind
     before returning to Penn to finish out a Masters degree.

    Been There, Hacked That: Tips for PennApps 2011

    I’m looking forward to PennApps this fall - so far this summer I’ve learned how to write a fully functioning Android application, and I’ve generally gotten comfortable with using APIs. Both of these are skills that can come in handy at a hackathon - neither is totally critical but having this knowledge puts me in a better position to be able to help build something at PennApps now compared to earlier this year.

    In the January hackathon, I was on a team with Jordan, Tanay, and Ceasar. Jordan was in his fifth year, getting his masters, whereas Tanay, Ceasar, and I were the only freshmen at PennApps. The three of us had never really dabbled in the “building” side of CS (Ceasar’s into AI, Tanay likes information systems, I’m fascinated by algorithms), but were interested in learning something over the course of PennApps. Jordan, on the other hand, had experience developing iOS apps in the past, and was well acquainted with the Twitter API. Unsurprisingly, our team created an iOS application that interfaced with the Twitter api (worth noting: Jordan is working for Twitter starting later this month), which was great because Jordan’s familiarity with the platforms allowed us to see an idea come into fruition, but I didn’t end up learning much myself.  

    There were two main takeaways from my experience last semester.

    1. Don’t be afraid to fail. This is critical. I asked to join Jordan’s team because I knew he had familiarity with iOS, and because I didn’t really know anything. The knowledge I could have gained by hacking on an Android app (which, by being in Java, would have been much more accessible to me than an iOS app) is much more than what I ended up doing. Rather than choose the path to the most knowledge, I worked with Jordan because I wanted to be on a team that had a chance of winning. The best thing about a hackathon is the chance to learn and to work on something interesting - getting a prize is a shiny side benefit.

    2. Be comfortable with the basics. There were some useful tech talks given during the week before PennApps to explain the iOS, Android, and Win 7 platforms, as last year’s focus was mobile apps (there will certainly be good tech talks in September as well!). Though I attended some of those, I didn’t follow along on my own computer as the presenters worked examples, and as a result wasn’t prepared to do anything at the beginning of the hackathon. There was also a post with a presentation Jordan had given on using the Twitter API ( It isn’t important to be an expert at anything before a hackathon - I’ll repeat that learning is what a hackathon is for - but it’s helpful to have gotten your feet wet in something (be it a platform, a language, or anything else) you think you would want to work with.

    With these things in mind, I look to the coming PennApps as a venue to build something fun and learn something new. Best of luck!

    Pulak is an M&T sophomore studying CIS, spending his summer doing Android development at Piazza.


    PennApps 2011 Hackathon: Here we go again

    PennApps is a chance for you to showcase your design/programming skills by creating a useful application over the course of a weekend, win prizes and meet representatives of some of the most interesting tech companies around!

    More details coming soon.

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