Army announces three student winners in xTechHBCU competition

By Melissa Hirsch, Office of Army Prize Competitions and Army Applied SBIR ProgramFebruary 16, 2023

The xTechHBCU Student Competition’s first place winner (center), Deneen Royal, being presented with her first-place cash prize by Dr. Matt Willis (upper right), director, and LTC Sherida Whindleton (upper left), deputy director, of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program at the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year STEM Conference in National Harbor, Md.
The xTechHBCU Student Competition’s first place winner (center), Deneen Royal, being presented with her first-place cash prize by Dr. Matt Willis (upper right), director, and LTC Sherida Whindleton (upper left), deputy director, of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program at the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year STEM Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army xTech Program announced three winners of the inaugural xTechHBCU Student competition on February 11, 2023. The winners were selected out of the 16 student finalists who delivered their final technology solutions pitches to a panel of Army judges at the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year STEM Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

The xTechHBCU Student competition provided eligible historically Black college and university undergraduate students with the opportunity to pitch their innovative technology ideas addressing climate change, preventative care for Soldiers’ mental and physical health and implementation of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Through its first-ever student prize competition, the U.S. Army awarded three promising young scientists and engineers $8,000 for first place, $5,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place. The winning students also have the opportunity to develop a prototype or seek a patent for their technology solution.

In addition to their innovative technology pitches at BEYA, students also had the opportunity to network with Army and industry leaders from across the research and technology ecosystem and discuss their future careers in STEM. Many of the finalists received on-the-spot interviews and job offers from the Army and industry organizations in attendance that were recruiting at the conference.

Leaders from across the Army enterprise also attended the students’ technology demos to learn more about the capabilities.

“The students who participated in xTechHBCU Student took each step of the competition in stride — from the concept submission and pitch preparation to the final live pitch event in front of a prestigious panel of judges,” said Dr. Matt Willis, director of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. “It was exciting to see these students’ passion for research and development, as well as public service. This year’s competition is an excellent step in developing key partnerships the Army needs to continue driving toward its modernization priorities.”

The xTechHBCU Student Competition’s third place winner (center), Shirley Jacquet, being presented with her cash prize by Dr. Matt Willis (stage center right), director, and LTC Sherida Whindleton (stage center left), deputy director, of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. Competition judges (from left to right): Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Dr. Val Emery, Ms. Mich’a Gary, Dr. Adrienne Raglin, Maj. Katherine Carr, Ms. Charneta Samms, COL Alicia Johnson, and Dr. Reginald Hobbs.
1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The xTechHBCU Student Competition’s third place winner (center), Shirley Jacquet, being presented with her cash prize by Dr. Matt Willis (stage center right), director, and LTC Sherida Whindleton (stage center left), deputy director, of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. Competition judges (from left to right): Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Dr. Val Emery, Ms. Mich’a Gary, Dr. Adrienne Raglin, Maj. Katherine Carr, Ms. Charneta Samms, COL Alicia Johnson, and Dr. Reginald Hobbs. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
The xTechHBCU Student Competition’s second place winner (stage center), Lirane Mandjoupa, being presented with her award plaque by Dr. Matt Willis (stage center right), director, and LTC Sherida Whindleton (stage center left), deputy director, of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. Competition judges (from left to right): Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Dr. Val Emery, Ms. Mich’a Gary, Dr. Adrienne Raglin, Maj. Katherine Carr, Ms. Charneta Samms, COL Alicia Johnson, and Dr. Reginald Hobbs.
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The xTechHBCU Student Competition’s second place winner (stage center), Lirane Mandjoupa, being presented with her award plaque by Dr. Matt Willis (stage center right), director, and LTC Sherida Whindleton (stage center left), deputy director, of Army prize competitions and the Army Applied SBIR Program. Competition judges (from left to right): Dr. Prabhat Kumar, Dr. Val Emery, Ms. Mich’a Gary, Dr. Adrienne Raglin, Maj. Katherine Carr, Ms. Charneta Samms, COL Alicia Johnson, and Dr. Reginald Hobbs. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Dr. Amy D’Agostino, Army xTech Program Manager, providing opening remarks to the judges and competition attendees before the student pitches held at the 2023 Black Engineer of the Year STEM Conference
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

The winning students of the competition are:

  • 1st Place: Deneen Royal, Fayetteville State University: “AI For Independent Surveillance Missions (ASIM)”
  • 2nd Place: Lirane Mandjoupa, University of the District of Columbia: “Ground-based remote sensing for Airdrops precision system: A data acquisition approach to mitigate supply chain and climate change risks”
  • 3rd Place: Shirley Jacquet, Fayetteville State University: “QTL Mapping and Correlation Analysis of Amino Acids Contents in Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] Population”

The finalists represented nine HBCUs across the U.S. and finalists were invited to take part in an eight-week xTech Accelerator program that prepared students for their pitches, educated them on Army priorities and areas of interest, and provided insight into Army career pathways.

“I was greatly impressed by the talent and technologies presented during the final pitch event at BEYA,” said Dr. Travis King, director of basic research and science, technology, engineering and math in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology. “The success of the first xTechHBCU Student Competition reinforces the value of a diverse talent pool, specifically as a driver of innovation in science and technology. Collaboration with these HBCU students early in their careers is essential to the Army developing lasting partnerships with future research leaders.”

Established in 2018 by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, the Army xTech Program strives to integrate small businesses and non-traditional vendors into the Army’s science and technology ecosystem by providing opportunities for direct exposure to laboratories, program executive offices and program managers from across the Army. The xTechHBCU competition series enhances opportunities for HBCU students as it works to develop relationships with institutions that directly serve minorities.

The xTech Program holds several competitions per year, from open-topic competitions such as xTechSearch, to technology-specific competitions targeting specific Army needs and challenges. For all competition information, visit the xTech website.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology provides the American Soldier with a decisive advantage in any mission by developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining the world’s finest equipment and services, and by leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet current and future Army needs. For more information, visit ASA (ALT)'s page on Army.mil.