The BlueHack, which was held from July 19-21, was the first virtual hack-a-thon held by IBM, where a total of 77 teams from 20 different IBM sites around the US competed in 4 different categories.
Shonda and Shalisha Witherspoon were members of Team NASAS, which consisted of 5 women (the only all-female team to compete in the hack-a-thon), and chose to compete in the IoT + TJBot challenge. For their project, they decided to use the TJBot to translate the manual alphabet (American Sign Language) to build a bridge of communication between those who understand ASL and those who do not. In order to do this, they trained their TJBot named Helen (in honor of Helen Keller), to learn the manual alphabet through Watson Visual Recognition services, and then translate and speak each spelled word with Watson Text to Speech services.
“The victory was a rewarding and amazing experience,” said Shonda, as the Team NASAS members had never competed in a hack-a-thon before and therefore had no idea what to expect. Also, the fact that they were the only all female team was another accomplishment, as they all come from different backgrounds, but worked well together and we’re proud to represent women in STEM.
“I hope this encourages other FIU students, and women in STEM, to compete in hack-a-thons, as it’s a great way to learn new skills and technologies, make new connections with other students and mentors, and collaborate on a project that can make a difference in the world. ~ Shalisha
Finally, the Witherspoon sisters were really proud to represent Florida International University (FIU) and the School of Computing and Information Sciences (SCIS), as it shows that FIU students are able to compete with, and beat students from renowned universities such as MIT, Purdue, Cornell, Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, etc (some of them even Ph.D. students).