Morgan’s Team ZillowBears Take First Place in HBCU Hackathon with Innovative Financial Credibility App
Student Winners Earn $20,000 for Themselves and $25,000 for the Department of Computer Science
BALTIMORE — Morgan State University’s Team ZillowBears earned top honors amid a competitive field of more than 200 students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) showcasing their ingenuity and savvy in Zillow’s second annual HBCU Housing Hackathon. The realty-based case competition awarded top prizes to teams that developed innovations to help renters and first-time buyers find their dream homes.
The first place ZillowBears, a team of four Morgan students majoring in Computer Science, won $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. As part of the first-place prize, Zillow® also will donate $25,000 to Morgan’s Department of Computer Science.
The top three finishers in the hackathon, in collaboration with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Amplify 4 Good, won over the judges with projects that offer impactful tech solutions that align with Zillow's mission to help consumers overcome obstacles in their journey to find a home.
“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.”
Joining Dawurang on the first-place team were Oluwadara Dina (junior), Saad Nadeem (senior) and Godsheritage Adeoye (freshman). 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.
The HBCU Hackathon brought together 65 teams, six of which advanced to the final round. Each finalist was given 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.”
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; and Chad Womack, Ph.D., vice president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF.
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; Jonathan Rabb, founder and CEO of Watch The Yard; and Chad Womack, Ph.D., vice president of National STEM Programs and Tech Initiatives at UNCF.
All students from the top three teams also will receive new laptops and textbook gift cards, and all eligible hackathon participants interested in a role at Zillow will have an opportunity to interview for an internship
In addition to the winning team, Morgan was well-represented in the late rounds of the competition. A second team from Baltimore’s anchor institution, the Broker Bears consisting of Morgan students Efosa Isujeh, Subomi Popoola, Martin Adu-Boahene and Dimitri Watat, were semifinalists in the Zillow HBCU Housing Hackathon.
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified high research (R2) institution offering more than 140 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, and the only university to have its entire campus designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.
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