For nearly three days in mid-September, a gaggle of Penn students were consuming copious amounts of take-out food and coffee. While this may be a regular occurrence on campus, these 50 students were hacking and creating as part of the second PennHacks. The event isn't your stereotypical software hackathon – that's the domain of PennHacks' big sister PennApps – but is instead a hardware-based hackathon making use of microcontrollers, Arduino, temperature sensors, gyroscopes, and components from whatever else can be effectively disassembled.
NextFab sponsored a special "Most Likely to Become a Startup" prize at the inaugural PennHacks last spring and we sponsored the same prize this time around – a six-month membership to NextFab to provide a foundation to make a three-day hack into a sustainable consumer product. The first time around, the prize went to Allison Pearce and Natalie Eisner for their painfully necessary "Rise and Shine," an alarm clock that won't be quiet until you get out of bed and jump on its sensors.
This time, a panel of judges including NextFab Vice President of Member Services Ross Kessler, Penn Electrical and Systems Engineering professor André DeHon, Scholly founder Christopher Gray, and Oracle hardware engineer (and Penn alumnus) Nick Howarth, awarded the startup prize to Romaine Waite and Uriah Baalke. Waite and Baalke developed BlueFly, a Bluetooth remote-controlled helicopter operated by signals sent via cell phone and computer. Their residency at NextFab started just last week.
The other winners of September's PennHacks were Raspberry Pi Audio Mixer by Kathy Zhou and Karthik Sethuraman, which allows users to create music by converting drawings into audio, and Virtual Drum by Nirav Sah, Soumyadeep Ghoshal, and Aayush Sharma, which uses a modified Xbox Kinect to create a virtual drum set.