Where PennApps focused on creating software, the frenzied two-day hackathon that was PennHacks showcased students abilities to build tangible hardware.
“Anybody with a laptop can do a software hack,” said Joe Trovato, one of the seven ‘architects’ running the event. “My goal with this hackathon is to essentially raise awareness about hardware hacking and tell people that this stuff is available and there’s a lot of innovation to be done.
For the second biannual PennHack, 26 teams comprised of roughly 50 Penn students competed. With only a third of the 150 students that registered to participate in the event actually showing up, the turnout was disappointing but not discouraging to the event runners.
“I think PennApps sucked a lot of energy out of people that would have been here,” Trovato explained.
The architects also pointed to the fact that the small turnout really benefited the groups that did show up. With enough equipment for 150 people being shared by only 50, each team had more then enough resources at their disposal.
The architects are leading the pack in terms of what they’re accomplishing with PennHacks.
“A hackathon is relatively new,” Trovato said. “But a strictly hardware hackathon is very, very rare. You know, I haven’t heard of anyone else doing solely a hardware hackathon.”
The smaller than expected showing was merely a bump in the road in the eyes of the architects, who see PennHacks only getting stronger with each event. They are currently hoping to grow future hacks by extending invites to students outside of the University of Penn.
Judging the contest and dispersing the $3,000 in prize money were University of Penn professor Andra DeHon, Vice President of NextFab studio Ross Kessler, Chris Gray of Dorm Room Fund and Oracle hardware engineer and Penn alumni Nick Howarth.
The winners were:
1st Place: Raspberry Pi Audio Mixer, built by “Richard Parker” made up by Kathy Zhou and Karthik Sethuraman. This piece of hardware allows users to create music by converting drawings on a tablet screen into audio.
2nd Place: Virtual Drum, built by “Hex on the Beach” made up by Nirav Sah, Soumyadeep Ghoshal and Aayush Sharma. Using a modified Xbox Kinect the team created a drum set that one could use simply by moving their hands to corresponding virtual drums.
3rd Place: BlueFly, built by Romaine Waite and Uriah Baalke. A remote controlled helicopter that operated by Bluetooth signals sent via cell phones and computers.