Major League Hacking 2020 Hackathon Season

Hosted at the nation's first university, PennApps is the

original college hackathon

Come join us to learn something new, build an app, or start a company.



The College Hackathon

In the context of a hackathon, the word "hack" is used to describe how multiple technologies can be used together in a new and innovative way. Teams of up to four people spend the weekend working on innovative software and hardware solutions to real-world problems. These projects range in platform and application, including elements of web development, mobile applications, drones, and more. However, many times the most important aspect of a hackathon is the community it generates and skills that inexperienced hackers walk away with.

The PennApps Difference

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. Both beginners and experts alike will work together, learn and compete to become better engineers and work on awesome projects. This year, PennApps is expanding its focus on learning by emphasizing the collaboration of new and experienced hackers, and providing more learning opportunities and workshops throughout the weekend.

Campus Ambassadors

At the end of every cycle, we ask the PennApps family if they would like to be a campus ambassador for PennApps. What this entails is spreading the word about PennApps at your local school, college or university. Campus ambassadors are an important part of the PennApps community and receive custom swag and perks at and before the event. Campus ambassadors have been announced.



Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail were randomly paired as freshman roommates at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001 and have been cooking up ideas together ever since. First there was a classified ad service for Penn students, and then a web-based iTunes competitor. One spring, Magdon-Ismail called Kortina and announced, "I'm thinking of leaving my job." Kortina's response: "The second you're ready to leave, then I'm ready to leave." That's all it took for the two to embark upon their next entrepreneurial venture. The result was Venmo, a mobile-based platform that allows friends to exchange money using their phones.

• Iqram Magdon-Ismail •

Iqram is the founder of Ense (, an app that connects people through sound. His current focus is to promote three music artists on Ense Music: Lawrence Alexander (, Marlon Saunders (, and Iqram & the Immigrant Groove ( Before, he cofounded Venmo—conceived as a way to tip musicians—with his friend and Hill College House roommate, Andrew Kortina.

• Andrew Kortina •

Andrew Kortina is the co-founder of Fin. Previously, he co-founded Venmo. He studied Philosophy and Creative Writing, and he occasionally writes at


Cory Levy is the COO and cofounder of ONE, Inc., the company behind After School, an anonymous social network that allows teens to share news, secrets and compliments. An entrepreneur from a young age, at 19 Cory raised $1M in venture capital from SV Angel, True Ventures, Charles River Ventures, General Catalyst, Keith Rabois, Gary Vaynerchuk, Naval Ravikant and Michael Dearing to start ONE, Inc. Today, the company has raised $18 million of outside capital. He is also the founder of Internapalooza, a tech conference for college students and interns. He was featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 for Consumer Technology in 2017.


PennApps is built upon the idea that everyone can participate, from individuals who have never written a line of code to experts who have been developing for years. We have a number of resources available at PennApps, including workshops and the ability to request a mentor. If you are not sure where to start, the mentorship team holds tech talks, introductory guides, and more. We are here to help!

This also means that we need talented engineers and experienced hackers to come help our hackers build amazing projects! Mentoring is a fantastic opportunity to give back to the community and get to know our hackers on a personal level. If you're interested in being a mentor this fall, apply here by September 1, 2019 at 11:59 pm EDT. The PennApps Mentorship team can be reached at [email protected].


PennApps is partnering with Architechs and MLH again this year to let hackers get their hands dirty with hardware hacking. Whether you have vast experience with hardware or want to try it for the first time, our team of hardware volunteers will help you learn to use the cool gadgets we’re offering to build something incredible. We will be providing access to laser cutters and 3D printers as well as having our hardware check-out station to help make your hack the best one out there. PennApps aims to provide a wide array of hardware to interested hackers. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to our hardware team at [email protected].


Routes will continue this fall to provide you with additional incentive when you hack on specific themes or just cool things to be a part of your hack. Think of Routes as a series of forks you can take, each adjusting your final destination by a bit. The right combination will help make your hack that much better, and each one you choose to take could lead to a very special payoff. More routes will be announced soon!

• Growth over the Years •

As we celebrate our 20th iteration, we can't help but look back on how we've grown along the way. 10 years ago we started out with just 17 teams; this fall we expect to have 300! This is just one example of our growth, and we know there are many others out there. Many other organizations and companies can benefit from ways to track their growth, and this route is the opportunity to create them! This route focuses on all elements of growth: tracking, stimulating, and analyzing. From data science to quantitative finance, the applications of this route are endless.

• Open Source •

The open source community is near and dear to many hackers' hearts, and we want to give you the opportunity to contribute! Contributing to open source projects can be quite the accomplishment, and PennApps is a fantastic opportunity to have the resources you'll need to create an amazing contribution. We'll have prominent open-source community members from around the Philadelphia area to introduce you to various projects, help you as you work on them, and judge the contributions that you've made at the end!

• Social Good •

Social impact may have become a buzzword as of late, but its popularity is rivaled only by its importance. Technology has the power to transform our world for the better. Critical fields for social impact include healthcare, education, sustainability, and democracy. Whether the idea is facilitating investments in clean energy (CoPower) or helping people monitor improvements in their mental health (MEMOTEXT), we’re confident that this route has the potential for some groundbreaking hacks.


The Application Process

Thousands of qualified candidates apply to participate in PennApps every year, however our space can only support a limited number of participants and as much as we'd like to take everyone, it just isn't possible. We think that the fairest way to decide who we invite is by asking everyone to tell us a little bit about themselves, so that we can invite people who have demonstrated interest and skill.

We don't expect everyone to have been to a hackathon before, in fact, we love first-time hackers having been there ourselves when we started! We're just trying to bring those who most want to really build something awesome and learn something new, and while we can't invite everyone, we're striving to continue building a community of diverse and amazing hackers at PennApps. Just show us what you've made, tell us about why you want to be at PennApps, and we'll do our best to get you here!

Applications are currently closed.


Tentative Schedule

Check out our live website for the most up to date schedule!

Tentative Prizes

Check out our devpost for the most up to date prizes!


We know you have a lot of questions, so check below for some of the most common answers (and this document for even more) or drop us a line at [email protected].

How much will PennApps cost me?

Not only will we provide you with a weekend's worth of swag, meals, drinks, and snacks and a place to crash when you need a break from coding, we'll even help cover your travel. This cycle we're excited to have even more travel reimbursements available than past years!

Once I am accepted, what do I need to bring?

Need: Laptop and charger, cellphone and charger, sleeping bag, pillow, toiletries, a couple changes of clothes (nerdy shirts are particularly appreciated). Consider bringing clothes that can get wet (I can neither confirm nor deny there may or may not be a water fight).

Don't need: a pre-determined team, an idea for an app, food or drink.

Please don't bring: Firearms or other weapons, alcohol, illegal drugs, soldering or similar equipment, animals (no matter how adorable).

How do reimbursements work?

When you're accepted, we'll have a page where you can submit your required travel reimbursement forms and receipts. For each location hackers will be coming from, we’ll determine a reasonable cap. We will reimburse travel costs up to this cap—if you go over, we'll still reimburse the amount of the cap, but no more.

When/where can I hack?

PennApps will start with the kick-off ceremony at Penn Engineering Quad. There will be events planned throughout the day for those who arrive early. A detailed schedule of events and locations will be posted later. All work eligible for prizes must be completed between Friday night after the kick-off and Sunday morning.

What can I win?

It's not about winning—it's about learning and making friends that last for a lifetime (so everyone's a winner!). If you're thinking, "that's adorable...but really," then we've got you covered too. A panel of professional judges will select the top three hacks based on the following criteria: creativity, technical difficulty, polish, and usefulness. Top prizes are TBA, but usually involve thousands of dollars and insane perks from company sponsors. Most sponsors offer their own prizes too for specific categories, which they judge and fund themselves. We had well over $40k worth of prizes up for grabs last time including Nintendo Switches and Oculus Rifts, if you like numbers.

I'm interested in using hardware for my hack?

You're in luck! We have a whole team of organizers devoted to hardware. Check out the hardware section to see what they have planned.

What's the application process like?

We're looking for creative and innovative people with a set of skills that can contribute to a project - mobile, web, hardware, design, or anything else really cool. We generally prefer people that have proven their abilities in previous projects, evident through links, project descriptions, Github profiles, video demos or participation/awards in other hackathons. We don't require that you've participated in a hackathon ever before, but show us what makes you special in whatever way is most natural.

When will applications close?

The application will close July 15th at 11:59pm EDT. We have extended our deadline to July 18th at 11:59pm EDT!

Who can apply?

Any college, university, or high school student 15 years or older on September 1st, 2019 is eligible to apply.

Should Penn students fill out the application too?

Nope! We'll have a separate registration process for Penn students only later in the summer. Every Penn student who wants to participate is free to, as long as they register in advance. No application process.

I'm not a student, so how can I get involved?

Unfortunately, we can't allow you to participate in the event or be on site during hacking. If you're looking to mentor (i.e. someone with technical skills who'd be willing to help out participants during the weekend), you should reach out to us at [email protected] Otherwise, you can see the finished products at the demos on Sunday (time and location TBA).

How is PennApps run?

PennApps is planned almost entirely by (sleep-deprived) University of Pennsylvania students, with some advice and assistance from our friends at Penn Engineering. One hundred percent of the funding for PennApps comes from corporate sponsor donations. You can find more information about sponsoring at our sponsor section.

How should I behave?

Be respectful and considerate of your fellow hackers. We're all here to learn and have a good time. Everyone deserves the chance to hack free of the fear of being harrased.

What should I do if I have additional questions or want to express my limitless gratitude?

Aw shucks. First check out this for more FAQs that will be updated in real time and if you really must thank us shoot us an email at [email protected].


Working with PennApps as a sponsor provides companies a unique opportunity to reach some of the nation's most talented college students. Interested in sponsoring?

Send us an email at [email protected] for more details!