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Two organizations dedicated to expanding tech opportunities are teaming up to offer a “uniquely Tulsa” event during Black History Month. Holberton Tulsa, a software engineering school, and Urban Coders Guild, a nonprofit that develops tech talent among youth, will host a 12-hour student hackathon on Monday, Feb. 20.

Instead of sharing the regurgitated stories of a select few Black history-makers, the organizations are taking action to create history-makers of their own.

Black Futures Hackathon will inspire diversity in tech by working hands-on with students to develop their own robotic projects in a single day.

The free event runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Holberton Tulsa campus, located 15 N. Cheyenne Ave., on President’s Day, when schools are closed. The event is open to all high school students and members of the Urban Coders Guild on a first-come, first-served basis, organizers said.

Students have until Feb. 13 to register for the event at Holberton Tulsa’s website.

Utilizing tech to create generational wealth

For Urban Coders Guild founder and executive director Mikeal Vaughn, it’s about “honoring our students and their computer science journeys so they can create Black futures.”

Celebrating its fifth anniversary as an organization, Urban Coders Guild is an afterschool program that exposes students to various sectors of the tech industry through 28-week long courses in web and app development, data analytics, project management, and more.

Focused on the future, Vaughn sees tech as a way to build generational wealth. The industry holds some of the highest paying jobs around and it’s only becoming more valuable as time passes.

“And one of the things that we discovered thinking about the largest tech ecosystem in Tulsa, is that if we are able to move 2,197 Black Tulsans who are currently making $30,000, the median income, into a role that pays above $60,000, then we would effectively close the median income gap in the city,” Vaughn told The Black Wall Street Times.

Black Futures Hackathon: A training ground for tech talent

For its part, Holberton Tulsa wants to be part of that pipeline that gives people of all ages and backgrounds an opportunity for a fresh start in a lucrative industry. The school is named after Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Snyder Holberton, a woman who was one of six programmers of the first general-purpose, electronic digital computer, created in 1943 by the U.S. Army.

Today, the school gives 20-month courses in web development, augmented and virtual reality, programming, and machine learning for anyone wanting a career in tech. It also gives special incentives for people to join the program. It doesn’t require students to pay a dime in tuition until after they’ve secured a job making at least $40,000 a year.

hackathon
Holberton School Tulsa

“We’re excited to host our first student hackathon with the Urban Coders Guild to help inspire Tulsa’s next generation of computer scientists,” said Libby Ediger, CEO of Holberton Tulsa.  “Consistent with our learn by doing model, we are bringing together a diverse group of students to collaborate with Urban Coders Guild instructors and Holberton students to work on a coding project.” 

No prior coding experience is needed to apply for the Black Futures Hackathon. Awards will be presented to first, second and third place teams, and families are invited to watch the final presentations and awards. Breakfast will also be provided.

Ultimately, Vaughn says changing the trajectory of the city’s racial and median income gap is a big challenge.

“But the payoff for Tulsa, for our region, I don’t know that we can put a real number on that.”
To register for the free Black Futures Hackathon, click here.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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