BE Smart Hackathon Has a Winner!

hackathonAnd the winner is … North Carolina A&T State University! Team Aggie++ knocked it out of the park with its polished presentation, dynamic and 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 having Nathaniel J., our new associate technology editor based in Silicon Valley, organize and manage the execution of the BE Smart Hackathon, sponsored by Toyota. Nathaniel J. provided a diverse group of tech industry leaders from his network—some as far away as Amsterdam—to act as mentors to the hackers. They interacted with the students remotely through Slack—a Web-based communication tool—to guide the hackers, answer questions, and act as sounding boards.

The challenge? Students were charged with developing an infotainment in-vehicle iOS app within the Ionic Cloud framework. They were required to use a certain set of APIs (an abbreviation of application program interface, “a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications”), but could add other APIs if needed. They also provided concept documents and storyboards before the hackathon started.

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, and the students’ teamwork.

Making the Connection

Team presentations were handled differently this year in that not all the hackers presented. Last year all five teams presented their apps; 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 did get to attend networking receptions and hobnob 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!

But here’s really exciting news: Through a collaboration between Nathaniel J., Thinkful, and Black Enterprise, a scholarship has been made available to those interested in becoming a full stack javascript developer. To get more information and apply for the scholarship, go to

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