Two members of all African-American robotics team at Spelman College (also know as SpelBots) competed in the Be “U” Hackathon finals at the Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, WA on November 12th-14th. The three-day event was hosted by The United Athletes Foundation (UAF), and sponsored by Microsoft Supplier Diversity. The Hackathon’s goal was to promote diversity in the technology industry.
The team of Jazette Johnson (@_Simply_Jazzy) and Micaela Hunter (@_Freckle_Face) battled against eleven other teams for across the country in the Hackathon finals. They pitched their solutions for the opportunity to showcase their talents to industry leaders and win scholarships.
The competition consisted of seven other HBCUs teams including Claflin University, Clark Atlanta University, Hampton University, Howard University, Lincoln University, Morehouse College, and North Carolina A&T State University. Other competitors included Fort Hays State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Old Dominion University, and the University of Washington.
Guests in attendance included UAF founder and NFL veteran Reggie Howard (@reggiehoward) formerly of the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins. Other guests included UAF Vice Chairman and two-time Superbowl champion Ray Lewis, and Dr. Thomas Mensah (@Drthomasmensah), credited with patenting fiber optics.
On the second day of the Hackathon series, the teams were allowed to take advantage of the resources at the Microsoft Garage to finalize their projects. The Microsoft Garage is a large industrial space known as the “24-hour idea factory” for employees. It’s complete with the latest technology for hackers, makers, artists, tinkerers, musicians, and inventors.
Students presented on day three to a panel of six judges. The judges included members of UAF, Microsoft, US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The US Black Chamber of Commerce and Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship. The shark tank styled pitch competition allowed only seven minutes to present to the judges.
The SpelBots team developed the BedXplorer that enables virtual play for bedridden kids that impressed the judges. In the end, the Spelman Team won 3rd place and took home a $10,000 scholarship prize.
Here are the winning finalists at 2014 UAF #BeU Hackathon Series:
1st Place: New Jersey Institute of Technology ($30,000)
2nd Place: Fort Hays State University ($20,000)
3rd Place: Spelman College ($10,000)
4th Place: Howard University
5th Place: Claflin University
About the United Athletes Foundation
The United Athletes Foundation founded by former NFL player, Reggie Howard, is a 501c3 public non-profit organization created in 2008 by a group of professional athletes who understood their unique role in improving the lives of both the athlete fraternity and society in it’s entirety. To date, there are more than 150 professional athletes associated with the UA Foundation including members of the NFL, NBA, MLB, WNBA and professional boxing.
About the SpelBots Robotics Team
SpelBots, founded in 2004 by Andrew Williams, Ph.D., is Spelman College’s robotics team whose goal is to encourage students and young women of African descent to explore robotics and computer science. The team is currently led by Jerry Volcy, Ph.D., lecturer, computer and information sciences, and is funded by the National Science Foundation, Boeing and General Motors.