As a mom of tweens, a story about students using their computers for good warms my heart. And Morehouse College did not come to play at this year’s BE Smart Hackathon, hosted by Black Enterprise and American Airlines. A three-member team from the Atlanta HBCU took first place at the event, held on American Airlines’ Dallas campus. Over 110 students representing 19 HBCUs answered the call to compete under this year’s theme, “Homecoming 2022: All Code, No Switch.” Two teams from Alabama A&M took second and third place in the competition.
The team from Morehouse included juniors Kevin Drew, Elijah Truitt, and Trent Gaylord. Their idea for a luggage tag app that pairs with a traveler’s American Airlines account and simplifies the baggage-checking process impressed the panel of judges representing executives from American Airlines, DXC Technology and other tech companies. Although the competition is in its seventh year, this is the first in-person competition since 2019. Along with prizes from American Airlines and other technology partners, the team from Morehouse will have the opportunity to present their idea to the Chief Information Officer at Hyatt, a competition sponsor.
This was Morehouse junior, Kevin Drew’s first in-person 24-hour Hackathon, something he says kept him motivated throughout the process. “I think our success was due to our trust and accountability in each other, since with only three members, everyone needed to do their part if we were going to win,” he said. “Our teamwork throughout the presentation process really helped sell our project through each round of judging. I’m honored to have worked with my teammates and win for my school, Morehouse College.”
For Black Enterprise, the Hackathon is an opportunity for participating students to network, receive mentorship, and prepare themselves to find work in technology industry. Past participants have landed internships and full-time job opportunities at American Airlines and its technology partners. American has hired 65 Hackathon participants over the past four years.
“For decades, technology companies have lamented their ineffectiveness at finding and recruiting African American talent,” said Black Enterprise President and CEO Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. “HBCUs have been the source of top-notch talent in practically every industry. Our annual BE Smart Hackathon, in partnership with American Airlines, not only identifies and showcases promising Black talent but provides platforms for those companies to recruit them for internships and jobs.”
“This has been an amazing experience,” said Asa Rogers, a computer science and cybersecurity student at Alabama A&M who participated in the Hackathon. “I’ll be prepared to do so much more when I get back to school and during internships.”