An innovative lawn irrigation system that wirelessly tracks weather forecasts and soil moisture to water only when needed has earned Clark Atlanta University top honors in Ford Motor Company’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities Community Challenge.
The telepathic conservation system created by Clark Atlanta students Bradley Gilbeaux and Damon Willis can be customized for both business and residential use – saving millions of gallons in water. The students and school will take home $75,000 in scholarships, grants and implementation funds as winners of this year’s challenge.
Second place and $15,000 goes to North Carolina A&T State University for a plan to develop creative workspaces for innovation and entrepreneurship for teens in the Greensboro area. Alabama A&M University captures third place and $10,000 to implement a project that combines a community garden and vehicle distribution system to reach needy residents.
Now in its third year, Historically Black Colleges & Universities Community Challenge is jointly supported by Ford Marketing and Ford Motor Company Fund, with participation from national radio personality and longtime supporter Tom Joyner, and the Rickey Smiley Morning Show. Joyner was assisted in final judging by PBS Finding Your Roots host Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“Ford’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities Community Challenge is a model of corporate support for our historically black schools – one other companies should emulate,” said Gates. “Ford has long been a leader in its support of this kind of programming, and this challenge affords an opportunity for our finest students to demonstrate their mastery in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as their entrepreneurial skills with concern for communities.
“Rarely have I been prouder of any students, anywhere,” Gates added.
The challenge is a reflection of Ford’s longtime commitment to supporting the African American community, and its focus on education. Ford Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company, invests nearly $9 million a year – about one-third of its annual financial support – in scholarships and other educational initiatives.
Students in the national contest were asked to develop projects that creatively address a community need touching on at least one of these four areas – mobility, alternative energy, sustainability/water and a systematic approach to meeting community needs.
Each finalist team received funds to support the implementation of its ideas within its community, in addition to iPads for each student member. In total, the program awarded $100,000 in scholarships and grants.
“Ford’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities challenge provides students the opportunity to positively impact their communities, and scholarships to help them realize their educational goals,” said Pamela Alexander, director, community development, Ford Fund. “All of the participants this year made us proud with their ideas, energy and spirit of giving back.”
Next year, Ford Fund will serve as presenting sponsor of Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage, which has raised funds for Historically Black Colleges & Universities since 1999.