College hackathons have proliferated on the northeast over the past two years, from HackNY to Startup Weekend Princeton, to PennApps, which the Dining Philosophers hold at the University of Pennsylvania on a weekend early in each semester.
This year theme was simplicity; taking a complicated app and making it easier. Of the 42 demos presented Sunday afternoon (livestream archive here), here are some of the coolest hacks that took full advantage of available APIs.
Grassroutes.us makes it dead-simple to create and add a 'call your congressman' widget to your website or blog. The app is pretty damn sleek, automatically detecting representatives via IP addresses and using Twilio to enable click-to-call.
It's exciting to see how causes from SOPA to the upcoming elections take advantage of telephony to magnify the potential impact of traditional armchair activism.
Venmo is pretty popular with Penn CS students (and with good reason). Lendmo extends the Venmo idea to personal borrowing, helping friends find items to borrow, tracking lent items (Joe has my Macbook charger) and collecting payment within one click if the item gets misplaced.
Enunciate.me took the hackathon's simplicity theme pretty seriously. Help others learn to pronounce your name by either spelling it phonetically (using iSpeech) or recording the pronunciation yourself (via twilio). Share the produced widget on your webpage or share it on either Facebook or Twitter. Problem solved (or, at the least, you have a URL to point people to).
Using Facebook for gift recommendations isn't completely new, but Giftful's execution is both simple and elegant. Pick a friend and an occasion, and Giftful will use Facebook's interest graph to suggest gift ideas that are tailored specifically to your friend's tastes.
An impressive application from Penn master's students, Moonshine lets Android owners embrace their inner Mixologist, selecting drink ingredients and then mixing them up into a cocktail by shaking the phone. Looking for a new drink? Enter the drink's desired taste preferences (how sweet, how strong, etc) and get a recommendation. Failing to find a cocktail data-set available online, this team parsed a PDF and rated drinks personally to bootstrap their dataset.
Topped off with an incredibly suave demo, Moonshine promises to never let you drink boring cocktails again.
Planning a Road Trip? rdtripp.in connects Google Maps with Facebook to help you find friends nearby on your journey and makes it easy to drop by and say hi. "Kind of makes me want to go on a road trip," according to the person next to me at the demo.
Check out the rest of the 42 hacks on HackerLeague.
About the hackathon
With over 180 participants from more than 10 schools and API demos from Mashery, Twilio, Venmo, Facebook, Tumblr, TicketLeap and Cloudmine amongst others, the event has grown to become one of the largest hackathons on the east coast.