The following information is outdated for previous semesters of Hack Challenge! For FA20, in which Hack Challenge is online, please refer to the information in our Discord channel #announcements for timelines and requirements!


Whether it’s developing a mobile app, building a robust backend system, or designing a user-friendly product, we strongly believe that the best way to learn something is by doing. Our hope is that you will not only learn some practical skills regarding design and development, but also to leave the course with tangible projects you can showcase on your resume or portfolio.

The AppDev Hack Challenge will span three weeks (1 week for team matching / project brainstorming, 2 weeks for design / development) and involve students across all our courses (iOS, backend, and design). Each group must consist of 3-4 students from any one of our courses. We want every team to have a diverse set of skills, so each team should not have no more than 2 backend developers, 2 iOS developers, or 1 designer. If you are in both the iOS and backend course, you can count for either or both roles.

Participating in the AppDev Hack Challenge will be the required final project for iOS, Android, and Backend students and is optional (but highly encouraged) for Design students. As an added incentive, we have a few challenges with prizes (see the Challenges section below for more details)!


We’ll be pairing groups with two mentors, one iOS and one backend, who will help guide you through developing your app for the hack challenge. These mentors are teaching assistants and AppDev team members, so use them as a resource!


All communication regarding the Hack Challenge will be handled through the Hack Challenge Piazza. All students enrolled in the iOS and backend courses will be automatically enrolled. If you are a student in the digital product design class, you can add the course by looking up “AppDev Hack Challenge” on Piazza and self-enrolling. Communication between mentors and mentees will be up to you and your team (Messenger, Slack, GroupMe, etc.).



Before you get started your project, you will need to submit a proposal of an idea you might want to work on for the Hack Challenge. For the proposal, please submit a short writeup (1 page max) with:

  1. A short summary of what your app does

  2. At least two screens your app would have, with a basic overview of what UI elements you might need (UITextField, UILabel, UIButton, UITableView, UICollectionView, etc.)

  3. How you might use an API, or how backend developers could create an API for your app (database storage, etc.)

The submission will be due on Google Forms, and the link is available here and on Piazza.

When coming up with an app idea, please keep in mind that you only have two weeks to complete a working an app - however, this doesn’t mean you can get away with creating something super basic. Ideally, the scope of difficulty for this project should be more difficult than the weekly assignments you have done, as you will be working with others and will have two weeks to implement it. Additionally, since we have not covered game development in class, you may not implement a game.

Challenges and Prizes

Cornell Store: Best Backend Integration

We challenge you to build an app that features the best backend integration. We are looking for a system that is not only functional and efficient but also robust and scalable. For instance, it could be an app that has the best custom built API!

Cornell Store: Best Media App

We challenge you to build an app that integrates any form of media (think photos, videos, social media). We are looking for an app that uses media creatively to produce a fun experience for the user.

Cornell AppDev: Best User Interface

We challenge you to build an app that has the best frontend design and implementation. More specifically, we are looking for an app that is not only visually stunning but also emphasizes a good user experience.

Cornell AppDev: Judge’s Choice

We are looking for an app that has interesting features or uses new technology to create an amazing product. Think outside the box, we can’t wait to see what you create!

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