I Just Judged My First Black Girls Code Hackathon

Black Girls Code offers a look at what a diversified tech industry could bring the world

Last Sunday, I was asked to judge a Black Girls Code hackathon. The event, hosted by Colgate-Palmolive, was a glimpse into how truly innovative a diverse tech world would be. The girls—who ranged in age from as young as nine, to girls in high school—displayed a grasp of coding skills, and the ability to work collaboratively in order to problem solve.

Over the course of two days, scores of girls and their parents gathered at the New York City-based hackathon event to code. They were tasked with designing technology that could better their communities, under the theme “Code a Brighter Future.”

 

The girls and their advisers gather for a group shot. (Image: Barry Mason)

 

On the second day, I, along with seven other judges, arrived to select the finalist teams, and then the winning team.

Diversifying Silicon Valley; Hope for the Future

 

While I was delighted by the presentations of the teams of coding competitors, I was especially blown away by the level of technical detail the young girls exhibited.

 

(Image: Barry Mason)

 

One group created a solution to help feed the homeless—a smart food locker. The locker would be implemented in communities with high rates of homelessness. At each locker, a kiosk would be available for homeless individuals to enter and schedule requests for meals. An app would allow someone who lives in the area to receive the request and deliver the meal to the secured locker.

Another team of girls created an app for girls to find and interact with mentors. One team created both hardware and software—a lost pet app that paired via Bluetooth, with a specially designed pet collar. This team was the overall winner.

The winning team: Team Quadro. (Image: Barry Mason)

 

I was also impressed that the finalists demonstrated live, working apps. They also painstakingly detailed the ideation process—from showing their frameworks and post-it notes, to outlining their brainstorming and planning. The girls had the assistance of outstanding adult advisors, who really worked well with them.

 

An All-Women Judging Panel

 

To add to the inspiration, the judges were all women—a first-time occurrence, one of the Black Girls Code coordinators told me. Most of us had either previously been in or were currently in tech careers. I thought to myself, “This is what Silicon Valley needs to look like.”

The judges. (Image Barry Mason)

 

Colgate-Palmolive’s General Manager of U.S. Multicultural Marketing Carla Kelly was also on-hand to offer encouragement and help announce the winning teams.

Carla Kelly, General Manager, U.S. Multicultural Marketing, Colgate-Palmolive (Image: Barry Mason)

 

“At Colgate, we believe that everyone deserves a future they can smile about,” Kelly said, in a press release.”This partnership with Black Girls CODE helps us to provide healthier and brighter futures for young girls, as they gain access to the technology, ultimately transforming their lives and their communities.”

(Image: Barry Mason)

 

Here is video of the Colgate-Palmolive/Black Girls Code “Code a Brighter Future” New York hackathon.