Prairie View Wins Ford HBCU Community Challenge

Prairie View A&M University, whose diverse team made up of black, white, Hispanic, and East Asian students, illustrates how diversity wins–literally.

The team of four chemical engineering students won Ford Motor Co.’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Challenge, wowing the judges with an app that allows homeowners to monitor water and energy use in real time.

Second place went to Hampton University, which won $15,000; and third, to Johnson C. Smith University, which won $10,000. The Hampton team devised a program that tracks sea levels–useful for communities that experience periodic flooding. Johnson C. Smith students developed a project that raises freshwater fish for home consumption.

I spoke with Raj Register, Ford manager of multicultural communications, to learn more:

Black Enterprise: What is the purpose of the Ford HBCU Community Challenge?

Register: The Ford HBCU Community Challenge is an extension of one of the Ford Fund’s signature educational programs, The Ford College Community Challenge. The program, conducted in partnership with the Tom Joyner [Morning Show] and Rickey Smiley Morning Show, encourages HBCU students to design community projects that address pressing community needs.

With the theme of “building sustainable communities,” students are encouraged to creatively address a tangible, unmet community need that touches at least one of four areas: mobility, alternative energy, sustainability/water, or systematic approaches to meeting community needs. Students who submit ideas to the Ford HBCU Community Challenge develop team work as they develop their plan and practice public speaking skills.

BE: How does the challenge work? Can any HBCU submit to it?

Register: The challenge is national and open to any historically black college or university. Students are encouraged to create a group of up to four people to ideate an innovative proposal, while concurrently developing relationships with nonprofit organizations in their community, to support the implementation of the winning project.

The challenge is open for eight weeks and boasts strong innovative and pioneering proposals each year, which ultimately benefit at a minimum three communities a year. Students will work with their local community partner to implement their program and to track progress through the app.

BE: Any other comments about the program?

Register:  Since the inception of the program in 2013, the Ford HBCU Community Challenge has contributed $400,000 in scholarships, grants, and implementation funds. Each first-place team receives student scholarships, project implementation dollars, and scholarship funds for the HBCU, to assist in helping both communities and students go further. In addition, each second- and third-place winning HBCU receives funds to implement their projects.


To learn more, follow #FordHBCU.