BE Smart Hackathon Has a Winner!

10 teams learn coding, working with mentors, and more

(Image: North Carolina A&T University students – Hackathon Winners)

And the winner is … North Carolina A&T State University! Team Aggie++ knocked it out of the park with its polished presentation, dynamic, well-researched concept, and highly qualified team members—all of whom submitted GPAs that range from 3.35 to 4.0.

But hackathons aren’t just about winning. They’re about learning through the experience itself, developing collaborative skills, and learning quickly what doesn’t work—what hackers call failing fast.

BE Smart Hackathon 2.0

Black Enterprise upped its game this year by utilizing a more structured approach to managing the execution of the BE Smart Hackathon, sponsored by Toyota.

BE doubled the number of schools from five to 10, extended the time the students had for hacking by one day, and included a fun ice-breaking activity as well as skill-building workshops for the students.

In addition, Nathaniel J., our new associate technology editor based in Silicon Valley, in partnership with Thinkful provided a diverse group of industry leaders from his network—some as far west as Hawaii and as far east as Amsterdam—to act as mentors to the hackers. The mentors interacted with the students remotely through Slack—a Web-based communication tool—to guide the hackers, answer questions, and act as sounding boards. He also secured and managed the API partners and worked closely with the hackers along with other BE staff.

The challenge? Students were charged with developing an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) iOS app within the Ionic Cloud framework. They were required to use the following APIs (application program interface, “a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications”): IDscan.netPlot ProjectsStripe, and Userapp, but could add other APIs if needed. They also provided concept documents and storyboards before the hackathon began.

Four judges spent time assessing the students’ work and providing feedback: Chris Norwood, founder of Bay Area Tutoring; Jerry Higgs, Ph.D., senior product development engineer at AT&T, a sponsor of the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit; and Oliver Chen and Damola Omotosho, both from Intel, also a summit sponsor. The judges assessed the apps in light of their projected impact, innovation, and technical achievement, as well as the students’ teamwork.

Making the Connection

Team presentations were handled differently this year as well. Last year all five teams presented; this year, the 10 teams met one-on-one with the judges who then selected the top three teams to present: Alabama A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Tuskegee University.

In spite of the grueling schedule, the students attended networking receptions and hobnobbed with industry leaders, including Ime Archibong, director of strategic partnerships at Facebook, who spoke to the hackers as a group and met many of them. Companies from Prudential to AT&T to LinkedIn to Facebook and others all expressed interest in offering the hackers internships. TechConneXt is making connections!

For more information, to see photographs, and to view the live stream of the BE Smart Hackathon, go to the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit website.

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