Dirty laundry but no machine? There's an app for that!
Searching for an available washing machine, getting lost in Van Pelt, and being embarrassed by a ringing cell phone all have one thing in common: the inspiration for students to generate (from scratch!) smart phone apps as part of the 2011 "PennApps Mobile" application development competition.
PennApps is the University of Pennsylvania's bi-annual hackathon event where aspiring programmers team up over a weekend to build amazing applications. PennApps Mobile focuses exclusively on applications for mobile smart phones.
Over 30 teams spent a weekend making cell phone apps that usually take companies months to create (see them taking a stretch break below). This year's theme was "Serendipity," and participants gathered in Weiss Tech House developing their apps to give us a more "serendipitous" world.
The event is hosted by the Dining Philosophers (Penn's Computer Science interest group) and other campus organizations. Applications that resulted from this competition include:
Ambiance: An application that upon launching, based on the phone's GPS location and a list of Foursquare locations, leaves either a text message, a photo, a song, or a voice message at that specific place. This results in a geo-cache message/feeling for either the next random person, or a specific list of friends. Watch a video!
Android Silencer: Have you ever had your phone go off, embarrassingly, in the middle of class or a very important meeting? The Droid Silencer application helps users prevent these situations by automatically updating a phone's ringer setting (vibrate, silent, and normal) based on the user's calendar of events and GPS location. Watch a video!
Bibliotecka: This app can be seen as "Penn's Google Maps for Books." Users can search for books through this Android or web app, and it will browse and display the results from the Penn Libraries, Penn Book Center, Amazon, and JStor. Clicking on book results from the Penn libraries will also bring up an image of where exactly in the library the book is, and using the default map option will bring up a Google map of where the book can be found on the Penn campus. Watch a video!
mobLaundry: An app for checking the availability of laundry machines in Penn's dorms. If none are free, mobLaundry will notify users when the next machine is available. Watch a video!
The PennApps competition is ideal not only for the programming experience for students and the resulting cool apps – it also showcases what it is exactly that engineers do – take a dilemma, difficulty or unknown and use it as inspiration to make life better for those around them.