Queens College took first and second place in the first-ever statewide “Making College Possible Coding Challenge.” The judging took place at the Facebook New York office where the finalists pitched their prototypes to a panel of judges which consisted of New York’s business and technology leaders.
Queens College was the only college to have two winning teams against 70 other colleges and over 370 students. Team Knight, which won first place, was composed of students Carlos Beltran, Charlie Lin, Zifang Huang, and Navid Rahman Zhigang. Members of First Pass, who won second place, consisted of students Michelle Gonter, Julian Moskovitz, Ehud Adler, and Isaac Ben-Ami.
Zifang Huang, member of Team Knight, said it was difficult competing against so many schools, but it was worth it.
“It was tough as well as exciting. With so many intelligent people from the whole state, it was very difficult to stand out. We were not confident we would reach the finals, but we were trying our best in every stage. When we finally won, we were so proud of ourselves.”
All the teams attempted to create a solution to a problem many young students face to- day—finding financial assistance for higher education.
Team Knight’s success was due to the invention of their app, which easily connects students with available scholarships and grants.
Carlos Beltran, one of the members of Team Knight, said their product was meant to help students who have experienced difficulties in obtaining scholarships and grants.
“We did this because there is a problem where students look for scholarships but many times they get discouraged by the requirements and they end up not knowing if they qualify or not,” Beltran said, “‘Making College Possible’ means a stronger tomorrow and it provides opportunities to help students succeed in their college careers, obtain a well-paying job, and bring smiles to many middle income families.”
The “A Better Tomorrow” app, created by Team Knight, is available in English, Spanish and Chinese, and is accessible to all individuals with a smartphone or device.
Navid Rahman, member of Team Knight, was responsible for research, data and coding the list for the scholarship in an algorithmic format. He said The Excelsior Scholarship is an excellent proposal to make college free.
“I think it’s an excellent proposal to make college free for middle income people and set them up for a stronger tomorrow. That’s what motivated us to do a project that actually solves a problem.”
All of the teams—two from Queens College, and one each from SUNY Albany, SUNY Fredonia and Stony Brook University—were awarded with a $2,000 check.
Additional funding and support from Governor Cuomo was given to Team Knight. Governor Cuomo’s office launched the competition.
Charlie Lin, member of Team Knight, said Dr. Ying and Peter Patch helped them with their presentation and interview when they became finalists.
“I feel more prepared to participate in upcoming competitions. This has definitely helped me to do more in the future, especially if I have any other ideas.”
Team Knight’s success was praised by Queens College President Felix Matos Rodriguez.
“I was there when they presented, I was there when they were announced as winners and I couldn’t be prouder as president. It was a showcase of the talented students. The projects that both teams developed shows how intelligent Queens College students are and how determined they are to achieve their goals.”
Photo Courtesy of Simone Caprifogli