Hampton University
Hampton University Computer Science Majors Competed in Black Enterprise Smart Hackathon and Won First Place in Tech Challenge
10/23/2018 - #79

HAMPTON, Va. (October 23, 2018) – Four Hampton University students competed in the 2018 BE Smart Hackathon in Silicon Valley, October 8-9, 2018. Ernest Horton, Coleman Scott IV, Tauren Bass, and Jeffrey Grant, made up the Hampton Pirate team where they spent an intense 36-hours developing an app and competing for prizes. The Hampton University Pirate team took home 1st place in the Tech Challenge and 3rd Overall.

“Congratulations to these four wonderfully talented students. They represented Hampton fully through their character of remaining a strong team through a stressful situation, and their creativity in developing a working app in such a short period of time. Their efforts demonstrate why Hampton University students are continually being sought out by industry leaders worldwide,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey.

The Black Enterprise 2018 BE Smart Hackathon is part of the TechConneXt Summit where 16 HBCU teams of four college students each work collaboratively to develop an app that will solve a real-world business problem. This year’s hackathon was sponsored by American Airlines, so hackers were charged with creating a way to make the flight experience better, easier and more mainstream.

Once completed, the team had to present their idea and product to the panel of judges. The product was evaluated on the viability of the app, its utility to individual users, and the efficacy of the technological platform. Team Hampton placed first in the Tech Challenge and third overall. They each took home 25,000 American Airlines miles for travel, a new MacBook, wireless headphones, the Echo Dot, and a travel backpack. The Black Enterprise covered all expenses for participating students of the event, including flights, hotel and food.

Dr. Chutima Boonthum-Denecke, Professor for the Hampton University Department of Computer Science, accompanied the students on the trip to serve as a coach to help keep them on task and focused. “We know that our students have a strong software develop foundation so they were able to learn and integrate various APIs into their application. In addition, there were engineers from American Airlines assisting students during the hackathon. Those AA engineers were impressed by how skilled our Hampton students are and how much they were able to accomplish with little help from them,” Boonthum-Denecke said.  “We are very proud of our students’ growth and accomplishment during the hackathon and throughout the TechConneXt Summit.”    

Ernest “Xavier” Horton served as the team lead for the competition. He is a junior, computer science major, skateboarder, and interned at Google for the last two summers. “I had a really good time, it was awesome to see all the companies in San Francisco. The hackathon itself was exhausting but we learned a lot of new technologies that we had not used before. In addition, we were able to utilize our skills and knowledge acquired at Hampton in different ways to meet the challenges that were presented to us. It was definitely a good learning experience. I lost a lot of sleep, but it was a great time,” Horton said.

Tauren Bass, junior, computer science major and also a Google intern for the last two summers, was also on the team. Horton, Bass and Scott have competed at hackathons together before, but at the BE Smart Hackathon, they worked with freshman student, Jeffrey Grant, for the first time. “It was a great experience because trying to figure out how to help someone less experienced is a skill in itself. Our challenge was to understand what Jeffrey was capable of and how we could help him to move forward and have him be a strong contribution to the team. I learned how to walk him through what we were doing, and allowed him to feel a part of the team. It was a great leadership opportunity for me. Giving Jeffrey the skills that we have, passing our knowledge and experiences in a team setting will help him be a team leader in the future,” Bass said.  

“I definitely feel like for how little experience I had, I felt I did a good job contributing to the product. I’m satisfied with the outcome,” Grant said. “I had no experience with JavaScript and minor experience with HTML, and so my team members helped me get through some of the harder aspects of it.” Grant is a freshman, computer science major, interested in learning new programming languages and plans to participate in future hackathons.

It was a strategic move to place a freshman on a team full of juniors. Grant will learn skills from the seasoned members and be able to turn around in the next few years and teach those same skills to new team members. “Every one of these young men have proven to be outstanding program developers. They have interned at Google and Microsoft. They have outstanding grades, and I knew they would be extremely successful at this event,” said Dr. Jean Muhammad, Chair of the Hampton University Department of Computer Science.

Tauren Bass, Coleman Scott IV and Ernest Horton all competed in the Google DC Hack Competition back in February 2018 where they won first place.



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