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Solutions for the environment, education, and healthcare were among the top winners of the 2022 AT&T HBCU Innovation Challenge. This year, AT&T announced the students’ goal was to produce an innovative Smart City solution that addresses a problem their communities face. AT&T’s goal was to demonstrate how the company’s connectivity can power those solutions and empower their future.

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The annual event offers an opportunity for students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields to leverage technology from the communications and tech giant to virtually compete against other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Smart City use cases include public WiFi, environmental and pedestrian sensors, digital infrastructure nodes, Smart parking, pedestrian sensors, Smart water metering, Smart LED, and interactive digital kiosks.

In all, thirteen teams of students from eight HBCUs took part in the 2022 Innovation Challenge. Among the winners were a smart trash can that automatically separates garbage from what can be recycled or composted; a virtual reality tool to level the playing field for students no matter their language, location, or financial status, and an online resource that promotes the importance of quality healthcare in the Black community.

Taking the top prize was the smart trash can entry developed by “Levels” from Howard University. That 4-person team split $75,000. The team that finished second, from Morgan State split $15,000, and the third-place team, another team from Howard split $10,000. The team from Morgan earned second-place honors for the second consecutive year. The MetaBears team consisted of students majoring in computer science, computer science/business, finance, and information systems.

According to a Norfolk State University Presidential Intern, students Breyanna Chapman, a computer engineering and electrical engineering double major; Jah-Rule Davis, a business marketing major; Marcel Ferrell, a computer science major; and Javon Guerrier, a data analytics major created a social virtual reality app that allows students and faculty to create and customize a 3D avatar. Once the avatar is completed, it is placed into a “safe space” that can be customized. In addition to the social aspect of the app, it can also be used to mentor and support each other.”

In 2020, twenty-five student teams from 17 HBCU competed by developing innovative solutions that use available AT&T 5G bandwidth capacity to help our communities. The solutions were for healthcare, education, low-income communities, public safety, or another focus area of their choosing.

During the fifth annual AfroTech World, Howard University’s “4twenty1” was crowned the winner of the $50K prize. Their proposal was to create an app-based learning platform that allows high school students to earn points while learning about finance, marketing, computer science, engineering, and life skills. The points could then be redeemed for credit to purchase an AT&T 5G phone or AT&T 5G hotspot service.

The two other finalists of Morgan State University and Spelman College were awarded previously unannounced awards of $20K and $10K. One solution used machine learning and computer vision technology to translate both Black American Sign Language (BASL) and American Sign Language (ASL) into plain text or audio. The proposal leveraged 5G to help rural hospitals power remote healthcare calls, monitor a patient’s heart rate, detect falls, and determine the best course of action for a patient using artificial intelligence (A)).

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