BCN Staff — Sept. 4. 2021 — Seattle data analytics firm Zillow Group Inc., in collaboration with United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Black Tech Ventures (BTV), will host the HBCU Housing Hackathon to help Black college students further develop their skills through workshops, hands-on enrichment, mentorship and teamwork.
Registration is now open for Zillow’s first hackathon for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) around the country. Beginning Sept. 23, the seven-day virtual competition challenges students to develop and pitch creative and impactful tech solutions that align with Zillow’s goal to help consumers overcome obstacles on their journey to find a home. Nearly $90,000 in cash and prizes is up for grabs as students gain real-world experience in the technology industry.
To engage HBCU students who have various technical skill levels, Zillow’s HBCU hackathon is open to both students with advanced computer coding experience as well as those with little or no coding experience. Students will work closely with Zillow and BTV mentors. Teams can have as many as four members, and although registration is open to HBCU students in any degree program, each team must have at least one member enrolled in a computer science, computer engineering or related program.
At the end of the weeklong event, team finalists will pitch their solutions to a panel of judges. The first-place team will receive a $20,000 cash award, split among its members, and Zillow will donate $25,000 to its school’s computer science program. Second- and third-place teams will receive $12,000 and $6,000 cash awards, respectively. Students from the top three teams also will receive new laptops, textbook gift cards and AfroTech World 2021 conference tickets. All eligible hackathon participants interested in a role at Zillow will have an opportunity to interview for an internship.
“Zillow is proud to sponsor this hackathon because we best serve our customers when we can recruit and retain some of the best talent in the world — the kind of thinkers and doers incubated on the campuses of the country’s historically Black colleges and universities,” says Zillow Chief Technology Officer David Beitel. “Our goal is to strengthen our recruiting pipeline through engagement with HBCUs and encourage students to consider careers in the tech industry and, of course, at Zillow.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, HBCUs produce 27% of all Black STEM graduates. Graduates from these institutions make up 40% of all Black engineers in the U.S. Arkansas is home to four HBCUs, including the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Shorter College, Arkansas Baptist College, and Philander Smith College in Little Rock.
“Zillow recognizes the importance of establishing strong relationships with HBCUs,” said Beitel. “That’s why, in 2019, we joined the HBCU Partnership Challenge, created by the congressional Bipartisan HBCU Caucus. The challenge promotes greater engagement and recruitment at HBCUs by private companies. This hackathon is one of the ways Zillow is meeting the challenge.”
Dr. Chad Womack, senior director of National STEM Programs and Initiatives at UNCF, will be on the panel of judges for the HBCU hackathon. Womack also co-founded BTV, a venture tech firm created to empower African American tech innovators and startup entrepreneurs, with a focus on fostering the entrepreneurial mindset on HBCU campuses.
“UNCF is excited to leverage its reach across HBCU campuses to engage our students and market the HBCU Housing Hackathon challenge opportunity,” said Womack
As a partner, BTV will introduce participants to design thinking and the lean startup process so they can incorporate those principles into their hackathon projects. During the hackathon, the BTV team will also provide mentoring and coaching for the HBCU student-led teams.
“We started Black Tech Ventures as an organization dedicated to supporting design thinking, lean startup and tech entrepreneurship among HBCU students and alum, particularly those pursuing STEM careers,” says Jaye Espy, a co-founder of BTV who serves as its director of Programs and Operations. “Our mission is to encourage and empower more Black Americans to leverage their science, technology and engineering skills as they embark on their entrepreneurial journey.”
On the judging panel, Womack will be joined by Zillow and tech industry leaders including David Beitel, Zillow chief technology officer; Eric Bailey, vice president of Experience Design at Zillow; Aldona Clottey, Zillow vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility; Stan Humphries, chief analytics officer at Zillow; Loni Mahanta, vice president of Government Relations and Public Policy at Zillow; Jaisa Minor, head of partnerships at HBCU.vc; Damien Peters, founder of Wealth Noir; and Tiffany Taylor, chief people & impact officer, GSV Ventures. Special student judge Richard Clay, Bowie State University Class of 2022, will participate in semifinal judging.
To learn more or register for the hackathon, visit www.zillowhbcuhackathon.com.
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