Kennesaw State Students Partner with Microsoft, BlackRock and Wellstar in Hackathon Event

Abbey O’Brien Barrows

Thursday, September 30th, 2021

Kennesaw State University students were given the opportunity to race against the clock and work with major companies to solve industry-related issues at the 2021 Hackathon.

The three-day, interdisciplinary event partners students with industry leaders to develop solutions to real-world problems. This year, Microsoft participated as an event sponsor along with BlackRock and Wellstar Health System.

“Partnering with companies such as Microsoft, BlackRock and Wellstar Health System in an event like this provides our students with the type of hands-on learning experiences that bring their education to life,” said Dawn Tatum, the director of CCSE partnerships and engagements and senior lecturer of information technology in the College of Computing and Software Engineering. “The Hackathon enables students to come together, share ideas and solve problems just like they will when they are out in the real world.”

Princess Clark, a computer science major who recently transferred to KSU, decided to participate in her first Hackathon because she said the opportunity to work with representatives from Microsoft would get her one step closer to her goal of someday interning or working for the technology company.

“Participating in Hackathon is a great opportunity to learn and to meet other people,” said Clark who was one of about 100 students competing. “Regardless of whether or not my team won, I knew that we would gain a lot of experience and have the opportunity to network with prominent companies.”

Clark and her team were tasked with implementing a deep learning search engine and fully functional AI solution for Microsoft. Other teams worked on a project for BlackRock to come up with data-driven solutions to find out what source of climate risk, like weather or waste, impacts which industries. Students on the Wellstar challenge were asked to scale the company’s website from ultra-wide to a smaller, mobile version.

Many students return year after year, like sophomore computer science major Shravan Cheekati, because of the networking opportunities and the competitive nature of the event.

“It’s always different. The challenges change each year, and it’s a fun place to build experience into an industry you hope to pursue one day,” said Cheekati, who came in first place with team member Caden Robertson at KSU’s inaugural Hackathon for Social Good in the spring of 2021.

Tatum said students who participate in Hackathon gain the ability to think through a problem, a skill many companies are looking for when they are hiring.

“We've heard from industry partners time and time again that having Hackathon on a resume makes a huge difference, and it has helped several students land internships and full-time job opportunities,” Tatum added.

Nine teams were awarded cash prizes on the final day of the Hackathon:


1st place: Christopher Briscoe, Merrick McPherson and Cameron Cherry

2nd place: Suma Veeravenkatappa, Sri Khandavilli and Priyanka Pola

3rd place: Stephen Sulimani, Krista Gibson and Luke Zeches


1st place: Munif Khateb and Malik Naik Mohammed

2nd place: Andujar Brutus and Andrew Brown

3rd place: Cora Meador, Ryan Deem and Joseph Tierno

Honorable mention: Shravan Cheekati, Caden Robertson, Lincoln Breinig

Wellstar Health System

1st place: Shubhani Garg, Ode Miller and Amali Kahaduwe

2nd place: Tiffany Agiri, Sanjay Bhadra and Suzan Manasreh

3rd place: Phillip Bell and Kuehan Lee