Creative engineering was in full force Saturday at the fall 2014 PennApps hackathon. Following are a dozen highlights and hacks-in-progress that stood out from the crowd.

  • Hardware check-out. Students running PennApp’s hardware check-out office said they had two unexpected requests. One was for a motorized wheelchair, which they were unable to oblige. The other was for a live cockroach. Definitely unobliged, although the brave hackers found their own on the streets of Philadelphia. They intend to control it via brain implants.
  • High school! There was a mid-day meetup for about 50 high school hackers. They announced a new web site,, which launched last week. Their Facebook group grew from nothing to several thousand members in just six months.
  • Smart kitchen. Ask the app what’s to eat, and it will tell you what meals could be made from your available ingredients.
  • Facebook emotions. See a visual representation of how your friends feel about posts. Will that influence your response?
  • A mobile air guitar. Your hand holds the neck, which is a smartphone app, while your upper arm gets a muscle-sensing wrap.
  • A web air guitar. This is a clone of Guitar Hero running as a web app. Users play a real guitar interfaced to the app via microphone.
  • Mobile deck of cards. Suppose you’ve got beer and a phone, but no deck of cards for your favorite drinking game? Now you do!
  • Tag for drones. A dead-simple game for flying around the real world. Alice uses her drone to find Bob’s drone. Tag! Bob’s it.
  • Text torrent. Why not use text messaging to configure a torrent network? Ideal for where your bandwidth is low.
  • Chrome sharing. It’s a plug-in to do remote desktop sharing via a Chrome plug-in. No more hassle of installing local apps.
  • Smart bike helmet. Why should bicyclists and motorcyclists have to manually activate turn signals? Tilt your head and the helmet does it.
  • Social calendar. Business users share their calendars in Microsoft Outlook. Consumers could use Google but it’s not easy.
  • Life alert. Have your loved ones wear a Pebble watch app for when they’ve fallen and can’t get up.

Check back tomorrow afternoon for many more hacks and a report on the winners!

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