Dillard University Students Travel to San Francisco for a Black Enterprise Hackathon
(L-R) Tre’shayne Tuircuit, ‘20, Deven Berry, ‘19, Alexis Irvin, ‘18 and Jaylin Clark,
‘19 are the Four Loop team of programmers
Photos and story by L. Kasimu Harris
Last Tuesday, four Dillard University students departed The Oaks for a week in the postcard worthy views of the San Francisco Bay area. But, for at least a day, they’ll only see the walls of a hotel room and the glare from their laptops, as they compete in the BE Smart Hackathon 3.0. Dillard University’s “Four Loop” team of programmers, Deven Berry, ‘19, Jaylin Clark, ‘19, Alexis Irvin, ‘18, and Tre’shayne Tuircuit, ‘20, are pitted against 14 other HBCU teams of four students, who will work collaboratively to develop an app and compete for prizes. Dillard is the lone New Orleans area HBCU in the competition.
Their time in the Bay, October 5 - 10, will be an all-expenses-paid experience that is in conjunction with the TechConNext Summit and includes fun activities, several skill-building workshops, and opportunities to meet sponsors and summit attendees. Black Enterprise magazine hosts the competition that’s sponsored by Toyota in Silicon Valley. The “Four Loop” team is aiming to win.
“From start to finish we have 24 hours to code and present our projects,” Berry said. The contest could actually go 36 hours. The hackers are charged with creating a virtual retail environment for Toyota, and each team will submit concept documents and storyboards before the hackathon begins.
The Four Loop team will design an innovative way to change the car buying experience, where consumers can build and buy cars online. All of the teams will be judged on their apps’ projected impact, innovation, and technical achievement, and the students’ ability to collaborate as well as their presentation skills. The Dillard students are all Computer Science majors with 3.0 GPAs or higher and previous hackathon experience. But, they’re limited in their preparation to work for 24 to 36 hours straight.
“It was tiring, but thank God they gave us food because I wanted to sleep,” Irvin said about last year’s Hackathon.
“I had about four or five energy drinks,” Berry added.
For the team, they’ll rely on their previous competitions that has also afforded them confidence. Clark said that he wants to have more of a presence, because last year he didn’t feel that he belonged. “I didn’t know how to contribute, but now I know.” Tuircuit shared that sentiment about his last Hackathon, “I was a novice and could not contribute. Now, I feel like I have the skills this time around.”
Dr. Ming-Hsing Chiu said Dillard has a full-time Google-in-Residence program - a person who can give additional hands on support to the students. “It’s like we have a new faculty member.” Additionally, the department has started working with Evacuteer, a local non-profit organization that annually recruits, trains, and manages over 500 volunteers (Evacuteers) who assist with New Orleans’ public evacuation. Chiu said their department is trying to help with developing a logistics system with technology, for better planning and management.
“They come here to get some experience with coding, but they also get their service hours,” Chiu said, referring to the 90 hours all Dillard students need to graduate.
Berry expressed his excitement for the opportunities to promote the University, while garnering more professional development. Berry said: “We are able to expand and utilize the information from the classroom into real world skills and continue to get Dillard’s name out there.”