|Racing Toward Diversity Magazine|
Sponsored by Microsoft Supplier Diversity
Microsoft Supplier Diversity partnered with the United Athletes Foundation (UAF) to launch the BE U Hackathon Event from November 12th thru the 14th at Microsoft’s Redmond, WA campus. This Windows App hackathon event brought together teams of students from twelve colleges/universities around the country, nine of which are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), to compete in the finals for more than $70,000 in scholarship prizes sponsored by Microsoft.
As a company Microsoft is embarking on new ways to tackle the well-known diversity gap that exist today between the technology sector and the diverse communities we serve. The supplier diversity team helped to tackle that digital divide by investing in our future entrepreneurs and creating a pipeline of future diversity suppliers through the BE U Hackathon. Through this competition the students not only had an opportunity to compete for scholarship prizes, but they also showcased their ideas in front of industry and community leaders who will assist these students with their dreams of pursuing business ownership in the future.
Microsoft Supplier Diversity and UAF together recognized the power of leveraging the influence of professional athletes and the experience of Microsoft to create an event that changed the lives of young people and help set the foundation for business ownership a new and exciting way.
During the three days on the Microsoft campus students attended a kick-off event that included an address by Taylor Hawes, General Manager - Microsoft Corp Finance, regarding the need for diversity within the technology supplier base, and Yvonne Thomas, Director - Microsoft’s Youth Spark with an overview of the programs available to technology/business students, such as Imagine Cup and BizSpark. The keynote speaker for this event was Dr. Thomas Mensah – inventor of fiber optics cable, entrepreneur and author.
Throughout these intense days of coding, students were also presented with opportunities to meet with Microsoft employees from the windows development team who acted as advisors to the students and the Microsoft Careers team who spent a good portion of time talking with the students and getting photos to broadcast the event on the Microsoft twitter feeds. A big highlight of the event was the participation of Ray Lewis, two-time Super Bowl Champion, ESPN Analyst, and UAF Vice-Chair who attended Q&A session with the students on the 13th and the motivational speech to the students on the morning of the presentations.
The twelve final teams presented their final App Concepts in a ‘shark tank’ like environment to a panel of judges comprised of tech savvy entrepreneurs, community leaders and world-renowned athletes. Fernando Hernandez from Microsoft’s Supplier Diversity team served as the MC. The judges were as follows: Former NFL player and UAF Founder, Reggie Howard; Microsoft’s Garage Hackathon team, Amyr Has; Avis Yates Rivers, President and CEO of Technology Concepts Group International; Ron Busby, President, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.; Eliza Hernandez, Director, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation; and Entrepreneur, Inventor and “Father of the Fiber-Optic Cable”, Dr. Thomas Mensah.
Winners of the hackathon event were announced at a star studded celebration in café 31 on the Microsoft campus during the afternoon of Friday, the 14th where there was a musical performance by singer/songwriter Verse Simmonds (his impressive writing credits include songs made famous by Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Usher, Jay Z and Kanye West) at the celebration.
Here’s a list of the top 5 winners from the Hackathon:
1st Place - New Jersey Technical Institute with the Mobile Gateway App.
2nd Place – Fort Hays State with the UR Here App.
3rd Place – Spelman College with the Bed Explorer App.
4th Place – Howard University with the Bio Eye App.
5th Place – Claflin University with the Live Chair App.
The judges and audience were blown away by some of these concepts. In addition to the scholarship prizes awarded for 1st thru 3rd place winners, some of these teams are already in next level discussions with some of the business leaders participated in this event. Team concept presentations are being delivered to the windows development team for further feasibility evaluation, and some students are being contacted by Microsoft employees who want to act as mentors to these students for continuous development.
Overall, the Hackathon event was a huge success, and with the support of our Corporate Communication team and our Corporate Security team, the event was taped by Aspire TV for a :60 broadcast on the UP network and in flight broadcasting, and potentially highlighting the winners during ESPN’s coverage during the Super Bowl 2015.
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