Last month five Fisk students participated in BLACK ENTERPRISE’s 6th Annual BE Smart Hackathon. The event was hosted by American Airlines and was a completely live-streamed, virtual experience. The event’s theme this year was “Tech Super Heroes UNITE!” in honor of the late Chadwick Boseman and to encourage students to use their skills to change the world! The event brought together teams of more than 200 students from nearly 30 Historically Black Colleges and Universities to compete for prizes from American Airlines and other leading technology partners supporting the event.

Out of the 40 teams, the Fisk team, “Bytes” placed in the top 10. The Fisk team included Jayla Williams, John Joseph, Ikeoluwa Albert, Caleb Abhulimhen, and Ifrah Khurram. The students had 24 hours to develop a creative solution that would help airlines accommodated passengers traveling during Covid-19 that may feel less comfortable due to the pandemic and their respiratory issues.

“We decided to create a feature to assist passengers with respiratory issues, our goal was to be able to provide safe departure times and make sure passengers with health issues aren’t surrounded by people when they arrive at the airport,” Fisk Sophomore and team member Jayla Williams said. “Since our idea was in the top 10, we got to pitch our idea to the Hackathon’s tech partner executives.”

The BE Smart Hackathon provides HBCU students with valuable opportunities to network and build relationships, gain mentorship, engage in career preparation, and add meaningful experience to their resumes in anticipation of pursuing employment in a tech industry eager to recruit more diverse talent. Students will also benefit from virtual workshops on the latest technologies—including artificial intelligence, data analytics, and natural language processing—from key employees at Microsoft, IBM, HP, and many other tech companies.

“The Hackathon helped me gain more confidence in my coding skills and my ability to think outside the box,” said Williams. “It also got me excited to continue my studies in Computer Science so that I can create more useful things for people in the future.”