Nearly three dozen college students will channel their inner geek at Morgan State University’s engineering library on April 5 and 6, refining and developing technology skills –and maybe even producing the next world-changing, computer-driven idea or product–during a hackathon, a marathon for computer science engineers.
From 4 p.m. April 5 through 4 p.m. the following day, aspiring computer software coders, web site designers, business owners and others in the cyber community will learn the basics of creating a mobile or web application and have the opportunity to turn uncrystallized ideas into practical products.
The event is engineered by Black Founders, a San Francisco-based organization of African American high tech advocates who are trying to spur African American involvement in the cyber community, along with DiversiTech, a components manufacturer, and three Morgan graduates.
The Morgan graduates– Sam Henry, Michael Washington and McKeever Conwell II— have already developed some new, computer-fueled ideas and want to see more out of Black people in this area. They recently created Given.to, a site that uses the Internet to fulfill wish lists through donations to PayPal.
“I found out about #HBCUHack on Facebook when Black Founders went to Atlanta. I thought it was a cool idea and loved the concept,” Henry said. After attending another hackathon at Howard University recently, he proposed staging a similar event at Morgan, where he studied industrial engineering.
Although hackathons are common in the San Francisco Bay area high tech arena, such gatherings are East Coast rarities. The Morgan event is the third and final stop for the semester for Black Founder’s series #HBCUHack, aimed at promoting technology and business development at HBCU’s and in the Black community..
“It’s not just the people in Silicon Valley who don’t look like you,” said Henry of the absence of young Blacks in the technology field. “You see fewer people of color because there is a lack of exposure to the tech startup culture and tech entrepreneurship.”
Participants in the hackathon will form groups to tackle the creation of a web-based or mobile app that addresses, in a previously untried way, an unmet need. The winning team will receive $500 and the opportunity to market the new device.
Local sponsors, representative of Baltimore high-tech companies, include LGC Technologies, America Online and Software Theoretic.