November 6, 2023
Gift cards were also awarded to students who showed off their Hackathon experience of learning, collaboration and fun on social media, including winners from Spelman, Grambling State University, Rust College and Florida A&M University
The roar of the Jackson State University (JSU) Tigers could be heard loudly and proudly in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 5 as JSU’s team TICODE took home the top prize—including 100,000 American Air (AA) Advantage miles—at the BLACK ENTERPRISE 8th Annual BE Smart Hackathon, hosted by American Airlines.
A platform for students to showcase their technical skills and to be recruited for internships and full-time job opportunities at American Airlines in emerging tech, the BE Smart Hackathon brought together its largest gathering to date: 180 students selected to form 34 teams from 25 of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). During the 24-hour hack, American Airlines provided technical staff to mentor each team and guide them in preparing and delivering their presentations to the judging panel of American Airlines execs.
TICODE made a big comeback, competing last year but not placing within the top five finalists. This year, TICODE competed with returning team members Devin Brown, Khadari Johnson, and Khaylah Rose, joined by first-timers Brandon Newton and Mahlangu Nzunda. All are either junior or senior computer science or computer engineering majors who cited cohesive teamwork as a factor in their win, plus confidence in their coding abilities to create a real-world application called SOAR.
SOAR is a travel assistant app that would streamline the airport experience “from check-in to post-flight assistance, reducing queues, offering clarity and providing crucial support during unexpected circumstances,” according to TICODE’s presentation. In essence, customers should literally be able to “soar” with ease and convenience through their travel experience.
Rose, a JSU junior from Hollywood, Florida, says winning this year’s Hackathon puts her a major step closer to her career as a computer engineer.
“In a field that constantly changes, winning shows how flexible I can be when it comes to technology and innovation,” said Rose.
“This competition has literally challenged me on all aspects of the tech industry: from business to technology to creativity, winning has motivated me to learn exponentially.”
Second place this year went to Florida Memorial & Friends. This combined team included students from Hackathon newcomers Florida Memorial University of Miami Gardens, as well as one student each from Spelman College and Norfolk State University. They were awarded 75,000 AA Advantage miles each for their app, AASharp.
Coming in third place was the Sky Bison from Howard University, with their app Quickbook. They were awarded 50,000 AA Advantage miles and always kept the room’s energy high with their infamous “H-U” school chant.
Additionally, Southern University’s “The Coders” were selected as the Judge’s Choice. Their team, along with Morgan State University’s Hax Lab, rounded out the top five finalists who presented a three-minute pitch before judges and the crowd of hundreds of HBCU students, tech leaders, and Black Enterprise staff. The judge’s pick for “Best Technical Solution” also went to JSU, while “Best Pitch” went to Morgan State’s Hax Code. Each team member won Beats Pro and iPads, respectively, courtesy of BE.
“It wasn’t just a Hackathon: there were resources, mentors, and professional engagements that reassured me that I belong in tech,” said Florida Memorial junior computer science major Jabulani Mzee.
“This is Florida Memorial’s first year, but it most certainly won’t be the last-–we had a blast.”
Gift cards were also awarded to students who showed off their Hackathon experience of learning, collaboration, and fun on social media, including winners from Spelman, Grambling State University, Rust College, and Florida A&M University. Follow highlights from the event by following BE on Instagram and using the hashtag #behackathon across social media platforms.