Hackathon Brings Tech Competition to Campus

Event seeks to introduce more students to opportunities in high-tech


A three-member team took first place in the Black Founders Startup Ventures 24-hour coding hackathon competition Feb. 15 for creating a mobile application (app) that helps users locate hard-to-find buildings.  

The competition, hosted by the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences, was the last stop for the “HBCU Hacks” campaign for the spring term. More than 20 students participated.  

“The biggest thing was persistence,” Antonio McMichael said after winning the competition. “I feel like we worked well as a team and put in a lot of hard work.”

McMichael, a systems and computer science senior, Jeremy Blackstone and Nigel Randall, both systems and computer science juniors, worked overnight to write code for an app that enables users to locate small and obscure buildings in urban settings. The app provides users with real-time data obtained from global positioning system technology (GPS).  

“They may have created another way to market to people through augmented reality,” said Legand L. Burge III, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Systems and Computer Sciences. “I’m surprised they got it done in 24 hours.”

McMichael, Blackstone and Randall bested six other teams to win first place and the $500 grand prize. A team outside the computer science department — Sarah Holder, a Spanish senior, Ivy Watson, Aaron Malvaux, Sarah Jones and Janae Martin, a journalism senior — came in second place with an app that helps students find recipes for whatever they have in their pantry.  

The hackathon was sponsored by Black Founders Startup Ventures, a Silicon Valley-based organization whose mission is to increase the number of Black technology entrepreneurs. The goal of the campaign is to get more students at Black colleges and universities interested in writing computer code and becoming technology entrepreneurs.

Hadiyah Mujhid, co-founder and director of education outreach at Black Founders, said exposing more students to hacking competitions will help them feel more comfortable building apps to solve problems.

“We believe increasing the amount of students at black colleges hacking and building applications will ultimately increase the number of black tech entrepreneurs,” Mujhid said.

The competition was open to all majors, and several students who participated majored in fields other than engineering. Holder, a junior in Spanish, placed second in the competition for development of an app that creates food recipes using ingredients users already have.

“I’ve been to several [hackathons], and this is the first at Howard that’s taken off,” Burge said. “Because the event was opened up, it fueled an interest to go beyond engineering.”

For more information on Black Founders, please visit www.blackfounders.com, or visit the organization’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BlackFounders.

Follow Black Founders on Twitter – @blackfounders