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Norfolk State Students become Semifinalists in the AT&T HBCU Innovation Challenge

by By Jordan Graham ’23 NSU Presidential Intern -

Four students are representing Norfolk State in this year’s semifinals round of the AT&T HBCU Innovation Challenge. Their challenge: to develop and pitch a product or service that helps to solve a real-world problem. The teams were told that they had free reign over their initiatives. However, it was in the team’s interest to intertwine some of AT&T’s initiatives into their own. The AT&T initiatives include the following: climate resilience, reducing emissions, connected learning, digital safety and wellbeing, and bridging the divide between people and technology. If successful, the first-place team will receive a reward of $75,000. The runner-up teams will receive varying values of cash prices.

safespace product by harmoni. photo of five peopleNorfolk State University students Breyanna Chapman, a junior Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering double major; Jah-Rule Davis, a senior Business Marketing major; Marcel Ferrell, a sophomore Computer Science major; and Javon Guerrier, a senior Business Intelligence and Data Analytics major banded together and created a team known as Harmoni. The team decided on the name “Harmoni” to represent both the design philosophy and approach that the team possesses.

“We’re empathetic innovators, so we strive to understand people’s needs and pain points before designing a product or service for them,” Javon Guerrier stated. Harmoni hopes to "create harmony within themselves and their relationships with other students and faculty."

To represent this idea, Harmoni has created an app named "SafeSpace." It is a social VR application app that allows on-campus students, off-campus students, online students, and even faculty to "connect, inspire, and support one another." While in the app, students can create and customize a 3D avatar. Once the avatar is completed, it is placed into a "safe space" that can be customized to the student's liking.

In addition to the social aspect of the app, it can also be used for mentorship. If a student is experiencing hardship and needs support, the app’s algorithm allows for matches to be made. Immediately after a match, both the mentor and student can meet in a "safe space" to converse. According to Javon Guerrier, the main goal of the app is to "empower students to befriend, uplift, mentor, lead, heal, and support each other."

 The team presented its final pitch on Friday, Feb. 18. The winners of the competition will be announced starting at 11 a.m., Monday, Feb. 28, via a video conference. You can view the 2022 Award Ceremony Here.

Team Harmoni says it is determined to win.