Claflin Team Among the Best at Be ā€œUā€ Hackathon, Earns Opportunity to be Featured During Super Bowl XLIX

Dec 19, 2015

Claflin University students Sakshyam Dahal, Michael DeVore, Ifeanyi Kalu and Eddie Massey not only had the opportunity of a lifetime when they presented their new mobile app concept at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., in November, but they also now have the chance to be featured during Super Bowl XLIX.

The team’s app, Live Chair – which is designed to increase customer satisfaction and business revenue for barbershops – came in fifth out of 12 teams at the United Athletes Foundation’s Be “U” Hackathon League Series Competition.

While the Claflin team didn’t win any of the $70,000 in scholarships presented to the top three teams, the students are among those featured by an Aspire TV broadcast on the UP network and could be highlighted among the winning teams during ESPN’s coverage of Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, February 1, 2015.

“Presenting our Live Chair app at Microsoft's headquarters in front of the judges was very exciting,” DeVore said. “We all were a little nervous at first, but our passion soon overwhelmed us and our presentation was successful. The judges provided us with great feedback to help us improve Live Chair.

“It was amazing to meet everyone from the other national mobile app teams. It was a great networking opportunity, and some of us have formed new friendships from this experience. Meeting Super Bowl Champion Ray Lewis really inspired us.”

Live Chair uses technology to maximize the efficiency of empty barbershop chairs to increase their daily revenue and help customers know the best time to go for a cut, team leader DeVore said.

“If there was a way for you to communicate with the barber and for him to communicate with you without him having to stop cutting the person’s hair he’s currently cutting, that will boost the efficiency of the barbershop,” he said. “The app works with a hardware device to accomplish that goal. So it’s an innovative device with an innovative app, and it achieves this unique goal.

“The customers are going to be happy, and the barbers are going to be happy. It’s just mutually beneficial.”

The Claflin team competed against student teams from Clark Atlanta University, Fort Hayes State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Lincoln University, Morehouse University, NC A&T University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Old Dominion University, Spelman College and the University of Washington.

During the three days on the Microsoft campus, students attended a kick-off event that included addresses by Taylor Hawes, general manager of Microsoft Corp Finance, and Yvonne Thomas, director of Microsoft’s Youth Spark. The keynote speaker was entrepreneur and author Dr. Thomas Mensah, inventor of the fiber optic cable.

Intense days of coding were interspersed with opportunities to meet Microsoft employees from the Windows Development team, who acted as advisors to the students, and the Microsoft Careers team, who talked with the students and took photos for Microsoft’s Twitter feed.

Super Bowl Champion Ray Lewis, an ESPN analyst and UAF vice chairman, attended a question-and-answer session with the students on Nov. 13 and delivered a motivational speech to the students on the morning of the final presentations.

The 12 teams presented their final app concepts in a “shark tank”-like environment to a panel of judges comprised of tech-savvy entrepreneurs, community leaders and world-renowned athletes. Judges included Former NFL player and UAF Founder Reggie Howard; Microsoft’s Garage Hackathon team Amyr Has; Avis Yates Rivers, president and CEO of Technology Concepts Group International; Ron Busby, president of U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.; Eliza Hernandez, director of U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation; and Mensah.

Winners of the Hackathon event were announced at a star-studded celebration in Café 31 on the Microsoft campus on Nov. 14, where they enjoyed a musical performance by singer/songwriter Verse Simmonds, whose writing credits include songs for Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Usher, Jay Z and Kanye West.

The top five Hackathon teams were: 1st Place – New Jersey Technical Institute, Mobile Gateway; 2nd Place – Fort Hays State, UR Here; 3rd Place – Spelman College, Bed Explorer; 4th Place – Howard University, Bio Eye; and 5th Place – Claflin University, Live Chair.

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