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Morgan State, Howard and Fisk University Students Win Zillow’s HBCU Hackathon

This article was sponsored by Zillow

Zillow just announced the winners of it’s second HBCU Housing Hackathon, which drew more than 200  students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and awarded top prizes to teams that developed innovations to help renters and first-time buyers find their dream homes. 

Students from Morgan State University came in first place with Fisk University taking second place and Howard University taking third.

ZillowBears, a team of four Morgan State University students, won first place and $20,000 for its “Z Save” application, which estimates monthly mortgage costs and lets users deposit that amount into a  virtual wallet that tracks their payment trends. The app also shows lenders data points to help determine whether potential homeowners qualify for a mortgage, and offers them a way to prove creditworthiness outside the traditional credit scoring system.

On top of the $20,000 that the teammates get to split, Zillow also donated $25,000 to Morgan State’s computer science program as part of the first-place prize. 

The ‘ZillowBears’, a team of four Morgan State University students won the competition.

“I wanted to participate in the hackathon to learn more about the real estate industry and explore on a  deeper level how technology can help solve the most prominent issues people face every day when  trying to secure a home,” said Nanfwang Dawurang, a member of ZillowBears and a senior computer  science student at Morgan State University. “Seeing how different people look at the same issue in  completely different ways and the various innovative and exciting ideas presented in tackling housing  issues showed me that progress can always be made when people come together and are intentional  about solving a problem.” 

The HBCU Hackathon, which was done in collaboration with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Amplify 4 Good, brought together 65 teams. 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.  

“We are very impressed with the caliber of the work, the quality of the presentations, and the  outstanding, innovative ideas the students displayed at Zillow’s second HBCU Housing Hackathon,” said  Aldona Clottey, Zillow vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility and one of the judges. “With 20  schools represented, this hackathon not only helps Zillow continue to foster engagement among HBCUs,  but it allows us to tap our next generation of technology leaders to help ensure we are continuously  evolving as a company and positively impacting the technology industry as a whole.” 

Joining Dawurang on the first-place team were Oluwadara Dina, Saad Nadeem and Godsheritage  Adeoye. Their winning “Z-Save” application was designed to address disproportionate mortgage denial rates for Black and Latinx borrowers due to low credit scores by providing an alternative way for lenders  to assess financial credibility. Users can build a positive payment history and receive a “Z-score,” which  can be used as an indicator of creditworthiness.  

Team Straw Hat Crew from Fisk University in Nashville, TN won second place and $12,000 for its “Hey Roomie” concept, a Zillow rental hub  integration that uses machine learning to pair renters with potential compatible roommates or cosigners based on housing and lifestyle preferences.  The team was made up of Collins Ikpeyi, Sopuruchi Ndubuisi and Elijah Okoroh. 

Fisk University’s ‘Straw Hat Crew’ team

For third place, Howard University’s team First Move won third place and a $6,000 prize for “VibeZ”, an application geared toward millennial and Gen Z home shoppers that lets users search for homes based on community preferences, such as  access to nightlife, greenspaces, the presence of an art scene and more. First Move was made up of students Bryce Gordon-Pinkston, Ife Martin, Ayotunde Ogunroku and Joshua Veasy. 

Howard University’s ‘First Move’ team

All students from the top three teams received new laptops and textbook gift cards to help them with their studies.

The teams that made it to the hackathon’s semifinals included:  

● Team Atom of Alabama State University, with team members Arnold Bhebhe, Best Olunusi,  Robert Mukuchura and Lucky Chitundu 

● Broker Bears of Morgan State University, with Efosa Isujeh, Subomi Popoola, Martin Adu Boahene and Dimitri Watat 

● Rocket of Howard University, with Jeremy White Jr., Karis Lewis, Morayo Adeyemi and Tyler  Williams 

Judges of the semifinal round included Lakshmi Dixit, Zillow vice president of Tech Engineering and  Operations; Kevin Regensberg, Zillow senior technical product manager; Damien Peters, founder,  Wealth Noir; Richard Clay, investment partner, Door Room Fund.

The hackathon’s final pitch round was judged by Zillow and tech industry leaders that included Eric  Bailey, vice president of Experience Design at Zillow; Aldona Clottey, vice president of Corporate Social  Responsibility at Zillow; April Daley, software engineer at Etsy; and Jonathan Rabb, founder and CEO of Watch The Yard. Chad Womack, Ph.D., vice president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF judged both rounds.

To top it all off, all eligible hackathon participants interested in a role at Zillow were given the opportunity to interview for an internship.  

We at Watch The Yard would like to congratulate all of the teams that put in work and participated in this amazing event.

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