Photo credit: Andreas Meixensperger/Wikimedia Commons

Pharrell Williams is ‘happy’ to help HBCUs and middle-schoolers in STEM competitions

Pharrell, one-half of the Neptunes and a super producer/rapper, is busy helping black and Latinx students make a mark in upcoming STEM projects.

Amazon, Georgia Tech and YELLOW partner to help students of color

Middle schoolers and high school students are focused on showing how their “voice is power” in the current YELLOW competition. Between now and March 12, students from the United States and Canada can compete in a music competition to remix Pharrell’s 2020 song “Entrepreneur.”

Competitors will be using computer code on Georgia Tech’s learn-to-code-through music platform, EarSketch, according to a press release from Amazon. The e-commerce powerhouse is one of two companies, along with Georgia Institute of Technology, that is collaborating with Pharrell’s nonprofit for this computer science education opportunity. YELLOW focuses on students in underserved communities and groups that are underrepresented in technology.

The official name of the competition, “Your Voice is Power,” is the latest initiative between Amazon Future Engineer, Amazon Music and Georgia Tech to help with student advancement. Amazon Future Engineer is part of Amazon’s $50 million investment in computer science and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

After the initial round, the second round (from March 15 to June 4) of remixes will be judged by a panel of Amazon engineers, Amazon Music team members and unnamed music industry professionals. In an ongoing theme of social justice, the “importance of racial justice” will be one of many factors when choosing a winner, along with the quality of music, complexity and organization of their coding.

The goal for this program and in the long run is for students to understand how to loop instrumentals, create new beats and custom functions, and utilize strings—with the help of Python, Java Script and computational math.

Pharrell helps HBCU entrepreneurs share their ‘ambition’

In a related note, Pharrell has “ambitious” goals for adults, too. After launching another nonprofit in December, Black Ambition, he will be initiating two other monetary competitions—The Black Ambition HBCU Prize and The Black Ambition Prize.

According to a recent press release, the Black Ambition HBCU Prize is working in partnership with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to create mentorships and financial compensation for current and former students at HBCUs. These current and former students will focus on how to “develop seed or early-stage ideas and launch companies in tech, design, healthcare, and consumer products and services.”

The grand prize winner will be awarded with $250K. Nine additional teams will receive prizes of up to $50K in funding. However, all teams must have a founder with at least one current HBCU undergraduate or graduate student (full-time or part-time), a recent alum (within two years of graduation) or one former student within the last two years. Participants must self-identify as Black, African or African-American. Or, they can identify as Hispanic, Latino/a or Latinx.

In addition to the monetary award, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to get additional feedback and networking opportunities with mentors, peers and experts in STEM fields. Finalists will receive opportunities for media exposure; and introductions to venture capitalists, angel investors and accelerator partners.

The deadline to enter this HBCU entrepreneurial competition was initially February 18 but has been extended to Feb. 22.


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