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Morehouse College students won $20,000 for a new app recently, offering long-term renters early warning. Another $25,000 is part of the prize awarded to the historically Black college and university (HBCU) computer science  (CS) program. The first-place team, Househouse, included Kendall Camp, Grant Commodore, Joshua Curry, and Paul Lockett.

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“We are incredibly impressed with the ingenuity, passion, and leadership the students showed at Zillow’s HBCU Housing Hackathon,” said Aldona Clottey, Zillow vice president of corporate social responsibility and one of the judges. “It was inspiring to see everyone dig into this challenge and bring their perspective on solutions to some of the problems people face when it comes to renting, buying, or selling a home. These students showed us that our future is in great hands and we are proud to support them and the institutions that serve them.”

Students from Morehouse used a machine learning (ML) application to address financial uncertainty for renters and illuminate increases in living expenses that might come months or years in the future.

“Computer science departments at HBCUs specialize in developing technically competent students with a sense of mission and purpose that drives them to innovate,” said Alfred R. Watkins, academic program director for computer science at Morehouse. “The success of the winning team is an indication the college is working hard to attract, nurture, support, educate and challenge young students to become the tech-savvy leaders this world needs today.”

Students from the top three teams also will receive laptops, textbook gift cards, and AfroTech World 2021 conference tickets.

“It’s awesome to conceptualize a project that could not only win this hackathon and receive prizes that are great for my team, but also help earn a donation for our college,” said Paul Lockett, a computer science student at Morehouse. “Coming into this, we had a plan, we executed on it and we are so happy we had this amazing opportunity to work and learn with Zillow.”

The event brought together 49 teams representing 17 HBCUs. Six teams advanced to the final round and had five minutes to present their ideas virtually, using live demonstrations and presentation decks, to a panel of judges made up of Zillow and tech industry leaders.

All eligible hackathon participants interested in a role at Zillow will have an opportunity to interview for an internship.

Team SU won second place and a $12,000 prize for its “ZPlan” to provide Zillow users — primarily those who aspire to become homeowners but might lack financial literacy and understanding of the home-buying process — with tailored help, such as tips for home buying or renting and suggested listings based on housing location data.

“This was by far one of the most intriguing hackathons I have ever participated in, and the competition was off the charts,” said Rason Irvin, member of Team SU and computer science student at Southern University and A&M College.

“My team and I were able to accomplish a lot in our short amount of time and grow skills that will carry over into our everyday lives. Having peers performing at a high level and in the same domain proves to me that the ‘odd man out’ feeling I have felt in previous roles will hopefully be a thing of the past as the top diversity talent makes their way into tech.”

Team SU also included Nicolas Hardin and Dominique McCraney. Team Aht Aht won third place and $6,000 for its “ZInvest” idea, an investment tool designed to lessen the burden of high housing costs and help level the playing field in real estate investing through tokenization. The team conceptualized a marketplace where one can invest in real estate at a lower price point using blockchain technology.

Aht Aht included Vanessa Agbugba, Samuel Alake, Lashaun McKenzie, and Sam Davis Omekara.

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