Indiana State University Newsroom



Technology students to represent Indiana State in inaugural UAF Hackathon sponsored by Microsoft

September 12, 2014

The race is on for a team of four students selected to represent Indiana State University as one of 25 colleges competing in the inaugural United Athletes Foundation Hackathon sponsored by Microsoft to promote innovation and entrepreneurship at historically black colleges and universities.

Information technology students Philip Urlich, Adam Nover, Tyler Howe and Trey Holland have one week to develop an idea for an innovative application that incorporates, but is not limited to, a Microsoft platform. Their idea must be accompanied by a 2-minute video explaining the concept and an optional PowerPoint presentation, which are due Sept. 17.

"I'm really excited to be a part of this competition. I've never done anything like this before, but I bet it's going to be a great experience," said Holland, a junior from Peru, Ind. "I've taken a couple of classes relating to app creation and I am currently in a third class. I think this will prepare me for the competitive world and give me a better understanding on how to tackle objectives that I will surely face in my career."

The digital ideas will be judged by a panel of members from the Asian, Hispanic and black chambers of commerce and industry executives, who will select the top 12 teams to be flown to Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Wash., Nov. 12-14, to present their ideas to Microsoft executives.

On the line for the winning teams are $70,000 in scholarships and prizes, plus the possibility of internships and employment with Microsoft.

The competition kicked off Sept. 10 with an announcement live streamed on Facebook for the participating universities, which includes institutions such as Virginia Commonwealth University and Spellman College.

Indiana State's team, along with Bob English, dean of the College of Technology and Edie Wittenmyer, an instructor in the electronics and computer engineering technology department who will serve as the team's faculty advisor, gathered to view for the announcement.

"Indiana State's team will give 125 percent effort," English said. "We're so pleased to participate and will be energized and engaged, and we will bring tears to people's eyes many times if for no other reason than our passion to do excel."

The competition is divided into three phases - introduction, challenge and competition - with a goal of raising awareness among diverse populations about the benefits of pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

After being approached by Microsoft to find participating universities, Reggie Howard, founder and executive director of the UAF, which empowers athletes to impact communities through education and social development, reached out to Fields Jackson, one of the top diversity experts in the country for small companies.

"We think there's a lot of talent out there and we want companies to know where that talent is, so this opportunity has been created for the diverse kinds of students that fill the roles in Silicon Valley," Jackson said.

Jackson immediately though of Indiana State and immediately contacted Phil Ness, Indiana State's associate vice president of development for athletics and his friend of 30 years, who brought the idea to College of Technology faculty.

"Thinking strategically, Microsoft has opened the contest to institutions with high levels of diversity and is an institution of academic excellence but one that is very diverse and Indiana State fits that profile," Ness said.

The competition will give students a better look into the technology industry, said Wittenmyer, who also led a group of textiles, apparel and merchandising students to win runner-up in a contest last spring to create a wallet for Natril Gear, a company that produces a backpack-like bag for bicycles.

"Hackathons encourage students to see that they can apply what they're learning at big entities, while also allowing them to network with people in the industry," she said. "I've also heard that hackathons are often how companies, like Microsoft, fill their pool of candidates for jobs and internships, so this could lead to a lot more for our students."

Tapped to serve as team leader for the competition, Ulrich, a senior from Franklin, said the competition is "right up his alley," having taught a course on android programming at Ivy Tech and took a couple courses in app development.

I'm the kind of guy who likes competition and solving problems and both of those are a part of this competition," he said. "I'm fairly positive that it will look pretty darn good on my record to be selected to participate in this and even better if we win," he said. "It looks really good to have a well-rounded background like I have and am continuing to get more of."

Howe, a senior information technology major from Terre Haute, said he's eager to work with a team of talented developers and sees the competition as a way to "open many doors for me on my career path to being a software developer."

Having this type of experience under his belt, Nover, a junior from Greenwood, Ind., hopes it puts him ahead of his competition in the job market.

"It will not only be a great learning experience, but will allow me to see what it is like to be working side by side with big IT companies, and to hopefully win and continue to work alongside Microsoft as a partner," he said.

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or betsy.simon@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Indiana State University is one of 25 colleges competing in the inaugural United Athletes Foundation Hackathon sponsored by Microsoft to promote innovation and entrepreneurship at historically black colleges and universities.

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