January 27, 2015 at 10:48 am

PennApps’ Massive Student Hackathon Yields Impressive Results

pennapps_crowd

 

In this guest post, Spotify engineer and music hacker/composer extraordinaire Jonathan Marmor recounts representing Spotify at a massive hackathon held at the University of Pennsylvania from January 16-18, where high-level student technology creators from around the globe made some amazing things using APIs including those of Spotify and subsidiary The Echo Nest, publisher of Evolver.fm.

Earlier this month, I represented Spotify at PennApps Winter 2015, a huge elite student Hackathon at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It was a great hackathon, with tons of high energy participants, and a very wide range of skill levels represented in the hacks.

penappsOverview

Approximately 1400 student hackers from around the world passed through a rigorous application process to get scholarships to participate in PennApps Winter 2015. It was entirely student-run, with dozens of presentation sessions, workshops, hacking spaces, and extracurricular activities taking place in numerous buildings throughout U of Penn campus over three days. This was their eleventh similar event in five years. It was surprisingly well-organized, and was the weekend of a lifetime for many of the participants.

Sponsors

Dozens of sponsors helped put on the event, from huge companies like Comcast, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Google, and Facebook to small startups like food-substitute maker Soylent.

pennaps_deskAPI Talk

My demo rapidly covered the Spotify Web API, mobile SDKs, The Echo Nest API, Remix, and four of Paul Lamere’s demo apps. It was received by loud cheering, and at least 25 people lining up to talk to me at end of the talks.

Sponsor Tables and Mentoring

On Saturday I was set up at a table with a Spotify tablecloth and a giant pile of stickers, alongside about 30 other sponsors’ and mentors’ tables. I was absolutely swamped with questions about our technologies from the moment I got there at 10am till I left at 9pm. At times during the day there were more than 20 people lined up to talk to a Spotify representative about their hack projects, job opportunities, and just to relay how much they like Spotify.

Hacks

Sixteen hacks used the Spotify API, SDKs, The Echo Nest API, Remix, and/or the Million Song Dataset. See here for details of the Spotify hacks, and here for details of The Echo Nest hacks.

Hacks fell into a small number of categories:

  • 4 playlisters that matched tempo to heart rate from sensors
  • 3 apps that clustered songs by a variety of attributes
  • 2 personal assistant apps
  • 1 party playlister
  • 1 audio processing app
  • 1 app for exploring songs
  • 1 lyrics sync app

Again, you can see them all here and here.

Spotify Awards

Having impressed the judges, creators of the following projects received Spotify’s top accolades, as well as headphones and premium subscriptions:

  • Clusterfy – Reimagine music browsing – browse with your eyes.
  • Genre Map – Find similar songs.
  • 3DJ – Shape your music (demo requires Leap Motion).
  • Spotiflow – Quickly explore new songs you might like and effortlessly add them to your Spotify with a swipe.