Cornell Bowers College of Computing and Information Science
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Empowered innovators ‘hack’ to broaden participation in tech

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October 14, 2022

By Louis DiPietro  

Optimizing online data by throttling down pesky online ads, reducing recidivism and broadening participation in the tech field, and improving the lives of those who are food insecure – these were a few of the award-winning projects at the Engage to Empower Hackathon sponsored by the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

Competing for more than $12,000 in cash prizes, teams composed of more than 200 Cornell students holed up in Duffield Hall on Sept. 30 for a 36-hour weekend blitz to collaborate, conceptualize, design, and ship tech solutions that strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Teams made their final project pitches Sunday night, and winners were chosen by industry representatives and higher education professionals.  

Students chip away at a team project during the Engage to Empower Hackathon held Sept. 30 through Oct.1 in Duffield Hall.
Students chip away at a team project during the Engage to Empower Hackathon held Sept. 30 through Oct.1 in Duffield Hall.

The following teams received prizes: 

Grand Prize ($4,500): Team Enimga won with Pinch, a tool that filters out unnecessary online advertisements, animations, videos visuals, and audio files, thus optimizing data usage and providing a more accessible internet. Team members: Zubin Bhaumik, Rachel Bonnet, Jonathan Feng, Karim Pareja, Talia Rubeo, and Joseph Tung. 

Most Impactful ($4,000): Bars 2 Bandzz developed a program, Linked2Tech, dedicated to assisting previously incarcerated people get jobs in the tech field. Team members: Himma Aklilu, Dasha Griffiths, Judith Jatto, Celeste Naughton, Adeyinka Oyemade, and Samuel Yeboah. 

Best Demo ($2,000): Team Hackatron built $avor, a tool to help food insecure people maximize EBT funds, manage meal plans, find recipes, and locate grocery stores. Team members: Avery Colburn, Mohammed Oshikoya, Claire Yun, and Andrew Zhang. 

Most Developed ($2,000): The Kit Kats developed TheraMe, a mental health platform specifically for middle and high school students. Team members: Mia Kelly, Richlove Nkansah, Daniel Peter, Harmony Prado, and Maité Sadeh. 

The Engage to Empower Hackathon was one of many events held during Impact Week, a universitywide initiative that encourages each campus entity to demonstrate and celebrate the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Taking place Sept. 28 through Oct. 4 on Cornell’s Ithaca, NY, and New York City campuses, Impact Week events included an alumni roundtable and several talks on diverse topics like Latinx and career advancement, the importance of gender pronouns, and cultivating joy and managing stress. Impact Week was endorsed through an Innovation Grant from Belonging at Cornell and was designed and organized by the Cornell Bowers CIS Office of DEI. 

Representatives from the following companies provided guidance to student teams and served as judges during the hackathon: Blackstone, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, Google, IBM, Intel, JP Morgan Chase & Co., LinkedIn, Meta, Northrop Grumman, Stilt, and Wayfair. 

Louis DiPietro is a writer for the Cornell Ann S. Bowers College of Computing and Information Science.