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We Train Hackers to Play Together

A lab isn't normally a place where students are allowed to play on their phones, but in Drexel's APP Lab (Application Development Laboratory), students are encouraged to do just that.

Recently, Drexel students have created useful mobile apps on their own that help users do things like explore the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, locate activities happening on campus, and find scholarships to pay for college. But now, the new APP Lab provides dedicated space in the ExCite Center for students and faculty from across the University to define, design, and test new apps together in a cross-disciplinary and collaborative environment.

The ExCITe Center was already providing space for hackers to come together: In May 2013 it successfully hosted Philadelphia's first Music Hack Day — an international 24-hour event that brings programmers, designers, and artists together to conceptualize, build, and demo the future of music using software, hardware, mobile and web devices, instruments, and art. Through intense collaboration (and a lot of caffeine), 25 new hacks were produced that weekend. On the heels of the Music Hack Day success, the APP Lab aims to foster ongoing interdisciplinary teamwork and mentorship — but during more regular working hours.

The APP Lab was made possible thanks to a generous founding gift from Bentley Systems. "Bentley Systems is pleased to help Drexel University students further develop their STEAM skills (that is, science, technology, engineering, the arts — which apps most definitely require — and mathematics) and ability to work smarter, together, through this newest addition to the ExCITe Center," said Bentley Systems CEO Greg Bentley. "Given the distinctive industrious nature and entrepreneurial inclination of all Drexel students, I believe our world will benefit from their 'app-titude' in creatively seeking and applying the advantages of information mobility, whatever career paths they choose to pursue."

Administered by the Pennoni Honors College, the APP Lab is staffed by experienced developers and offers resources such as open consulting hours for one-to-one mentoring and a library of standard code and data useful to building apps. For the Drexel community, the Honors College intends to establish a co-op position in the lab, attract student researchers, and host a grant proposal competition for support of student-proposed apps. Plans to involve the Philadelphia community include online tutorials and sponsoring periodic apps-related public events, panel discussions, demonstrations with industry partners, and showcases for student research and development projects.

Learn more about everything the ExCITe Center has to offer, including the APP Lab, Music Hack Day, and other initiatives at