Student Spotlight with Brynn Claypoole

Brynn Claypoole

Mark Stehle

THE WORLD’S PREMIER HACKATHON: Brynn Claypoole, a junior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, ran last month’s PennApps competition, the premier college hackathon, held once a semester, where people from all over the world travel to Penn to collaborate on hacks and apps for mobile and web platforms.

LENDING A HAND: Claypoole decided on a whim to participate in the spring 2013 PennApps event—and while she didn’t finish her app, she did learn some new skills. She also ended up lending a helping hand to the PennApps student organizers during the entire weekend. “I realized that I really would rather be helping them organize it and helping them run it than participating,” she says. Claypoole has led PennApps since March.

HACKERS, COME TOGETHER: The most recent event, held Sept. 6-8, was PennApps’ biggest to date: More than 1,100 people participated, including hundreds from schools around the world and about 700 students from Penn. Teams came from Switzerland, Israel, Hong Kong, and—closer to home—Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities.

PLANNING IS KEY: To pull off a weekend-long event of this scale requires coordination and planning, Claypoole says. Students solicited vendors for financial and in-kind support, got meals to participants, covered the travel costs of teams, and figured out where hundreds of visiting students could sleep. Their solution? The Palestra.

CREATING A COMMUNITY: Despite being a competition that comes with a $10,000 top prize, Claypoole says most people come to PennApps to work collaboratively and learn new skills. “There are definitely some people who are a little frantic, and those people tend to be the [teams] who are in our top 20, but there are also people who are coming to ... have a good time,” she says. “I found that even teams that do well, they’re still very friendly and they’re still happy to talk to you if you stop by.”

BORN LEADER: Claypoole says she’s never held a leadership role quite like this one, and after the spring competition (tentatively scheduled for Jan. 31 through Feb. 2), she plans to hand off the honor to a to-be-determined student. “I learned how to manage people and particularly how to resolve conflicts within my team and with other people.”

BEYOND PENN: For a year, Claypoole has worked for Christian Stoeckert, director of the Computational and Informatics Lab in the Perelman School of Medicine, where she’s doing research that merges her two loves: biology and computer science. After Penn, Claypoole has her sights set on graduate school. “I’m very interested in both biology and computer science, so … hopefully I would go to a Ph.D. program within computational biology or bioinformatics.”

Originally published on October 17, 2013