Imagine a smartphone app that would allow its users to send a video, picture or voice message at no extra cost, or the convenience of an app that could send a text message to another phone that would immediately call the user back.
These are just two examples of winning innovations that took home prizes at last year’s HackPSU, a student-run computer programming competition held in conjunction with IST Startup Week. HackPSU, created by Innoblue, is open to all students with an interest in technology. It will kick off at 6:30 tonight and conclude at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Participants will come together and form teams that will build prototypes of web, mobile or hardware applications to present to a panel of successful, technologically savvy judges. The top team will receive an exclusive, all-expense paid trip to San Francisco for the Readyforce Innovate weekend.
Although students have the opportunity to register to participate until the start of the event, Innoblue President Kathleen Warner said the hackathon has received a large amount of signups already.
“This is the second year, but it has been growing with success,” Warner (junior-theatre and advertising) said. “We currently have 190 people signed up, in comparison to the 85 that participated last year.”
Warner said the event has taken weeks of preparation to come together, as well as support from various sponsors, such as alumni and businesses throughout State College and the San Francisco Bay Area.
HackPSU would not be possible without the support of its largest sponsor, Videon Central, Warner said.
Todd Erdley, founder, president and CEO of Videon Central, Inc. located in State College, said his company had tried to start its own type of hackathon six months prior. But after hearing the event that Innoblue had created, he decided it would be a great effort to collaborate with.
“We think what Innoblue is doing on behalf of Penn State is really exciting,” Erdley said. “It teaches students to take an idea and go for it. Today, there is more entrepreneurial spirit to do what they dream of doing now than ever before.”
Warner said she is encouraging spectators to come at 6 p.m. Saturday, when participants will present in an exposition fashion, allowing people to view the prototypes and hear pitches.
From there, the team of judges, including the co-founders of companies such as Reddit and Weebly, will pick the winners from the top 10 best startups that are pitched to the panel.
Matt Brezina, a Penn State graduate and co-founder and CEO of Sincerely, said he will judge the competition based on a few criteria, including the usefulness of the hack, the presentation by the team, the degree of challenge and the “wow factor” of the creation.
“A hackathon is the closest approximation we have of what it is like to build a startup, and the experience is crammed into a weekend,” Brezina said. “You have to conceive an idea, find a team, build something and then present it to the world. It is great practice for the real thing.”
The second and third place winners will receive cash prizes of $1,000 and $500 respectively, and an Xbox, Surface and iPad mini will also be given away.