HBCUs Participate in Microsoft Technology Competition For The First Time

April 7, 2011  |  

By Linsey Isaacs

Eight years ago, Microsoft launched a premier technology competition where students incorporate technology to address some of the world’s most challenging social issues, such as hunger, poverty, health care, education and the environment. When Microsoft rounded out its list of competitors for this year’s competition, for the first time in its history, teams from several historically black colleges and universities will be participating.

Why is this the first time that HBCUs are participating in the competition?

Last year, The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities called for the engagement and strengthening of HBCUs. According to Tara Walker, academic developer evangelist for Microsoft, HBCUs have long been liberal arts colleges and therefore overlooked in the recruiting process for these competitions. But these highly recognizable schools are producing students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Walker immediately made an effort to reach out to them.

“It’s more about awareness,” said Walker. “It’s not a conscious effort to exclude them.”

In the competition, there are two rounds that take place in the fall and the spring. Twenty-four teams between six HBCUs–Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University and Tuskegee University–competed in both rounds this spring. Round one was held on February 15th and the second round was held on March 14. None of the teams made the finals, but Tuskegee was recognized as having an exceptional entry.

The competition provides a dynamic opportunity for students to compete against peers nationally from a bevy of universities. In its first year, there were fewer than 1,000 students that participated. As of last year, more than 325,000 students registered. It originated as a way to get students directly involved in their field and to allow them to learn from mentors and leaders in the industry. As the premier student technology competition, students compete in creating software and media alternatives in order to build solutions that will change the world, said Walker.

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