UMES students participate in competition centered on business strategies

Courtesy of University of Maryland Eastern Shore

A team of students from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore recently used their business acumen and problem-solving skills to compete against members of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

This spring, six students took part in the sixth annual “HBCU Battle of the Brains” competition in Austin, Texas. It was the second consecutive year that UMES attended the event, which is sponsored by the National Football League.

The Battle of the Brains is a cross-discipline competition where HBCU teams develop a solution to a complex issue, then pitch that solution in front of judges, as well as a live audience, according to the competition’s website. Nearly 40 HBCUs from across the country were involved.

“It’s a huge way to sell yourself to high-tech businesses and get a lot of scholarships,” said Dr. Victoria Volkis, UMES chemistry professor and team coach. “They all had a chance to share their resumes to companies that could potentially see them as qualified candidates.”

Teams are given 24 hours to develop their plan based on the criteria of analysis, business/technology solutions, presentation, and the question-and-answer portion when addressing judge inquiries.

The top three teams would win institutional scholarships of $50,000, $20,000, and $10,000 for first, second, and third place respectively. Alabama State University took home the grand prize, with Fisk and Norfolk State Universities being awarded second and third place.

Each team is comprised of five to eight students ranging from various majors including, but not limited to, computer science, marketing, finance, engineering, accounting, and mathematics.

Junior agriculture/pre-vet student MaKaylah Wolfe said she and her teammates prepared for the competition through once-weekly meetings and by simulating the 24-hour timeline by staying up and creating a business plan over that period.

As a result of the trial run, the UMES team consisting of Wolfe, Amir GawishT’Naisha AddisonMichael ZerayAnas Bashier, and Ray’Sean Smith, were able to finish their objective of increasing NFL fan engagement before, during, and after games by creating both the business plan and a youth-focused app, with more than five hours to spare.

“During the competition, we had coffee available to us and we kept taking breaks to do that,” Wolfe said regarding how she and her teammates battled exhaustion. “We all had our different roles and that’s something we were able to work out during the demo and that allowed us to get through it pretty fast.”

Wolfe said one of the big takeaways of the event was being able to network with other students in the competition.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “I think more people should apply next year and I think a lot of people would benefit from going there. It’s not just for computer science, it’s not just for technology people. It’s for everyone. I think everyone should try to apply and go next year because I am definitely going next year.”