What is a hackathon? By definition, a hackathon is, "An event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming." The Wells Fargo Center was packed. The excitement in the stadium was palpable. 2000 of the most inquisitive young minds from all over the world, coming together to build some incredible things, and code deep into the night. Welcome to the 2015 PennApps Hackathon.
PennApps was the first student run hackathon created in 2009. The following is from the PennApps website:
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....
I first started programming my freshman year of high school, and was immediately hooked. Programming independently, I had always wanted to find others like me interested in technology. I had never been to a hackathon before the summer of 2015. When I arrived to PennApps, I was blown away by the massive size of the hackathon. Sponsors such as Facebook, Google, Uber and Blackstone had all set up booths at the hackathon. Representatives from each company stood at the booth, passing out all of kinds of "swag."
Participants in the hackathon, or, "hackers," could roam about freely, with their new goodie bags provided by PennApps, to collect new items: Dozens of shirts, water bottles, free URL's, pens, styluses, pillowcases and candy were passed out. It was like entering a mall and getting everything you wanted for free.
The first thing I did when arriving was enter security. Next, I walked around, observing the place that was merely the calm before the storm. At six o'clock, I headed into the main stadium for the opening ceremony. Several of the sponsors spoke about how excited they were to be at PennApps, when finally, they let everyone off to go hack. Immediately after the opening ceremony, I could tell that I was in for an exciting few days. I watched as everyone ran about the stadium, forming teams, discussing ideas and thinking up lines of code.
One of the coolest parts of going to PennApps was all of the different workshops being held. I had the opportunity to attend a workshop hosted by Apple, on what to expect and your very first hackathon. The workshop detailed the standard procedure for a hackathon, how lack of sleep is expected, and how ideas can turn into reality. There were design workshops, meetups for hackers in high school, cookies and milk sponsored by Apple at 3 AM, Pretzels by the Philly Pretzels Factory, coffee until 1 am and hacking ALL DAY AND NIGHT.
It was an incredible scene. People with their heads resting on their laptops, blowup mattresses lying miscellaneously throughout the stadium, pajama pants everywhere, thousands of bright screens and endless chat about secretive projects.
The excitement in the room at all times was contagious. The great thing about the millennial generation is this drive to innovate. This rush of inspiration is deeply rooted in the goal of creating the next great app or website. Young people with vision, working hard to change the world as we know it.
As PennApps was my first hackathon, my primary goal was to sit in on as many meetings as I could, meet a ton of talented engineers and network. For my next hackathon, I plan to build something really great. Just the thought of coding gets me really excited.
I learned a lot at the PennApps hackathon. Sitting in on several talks, meeting hundreds of new people and gaining great inspiration, my first hackathon is an experience that I will never forget.