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Engineering students win $10,000 in MasterCard Give Back-A-Thon

Engineers are known for wanting to solve problems. A team of two School of Engineering & Applied Science students and an Olin Business School alumna recently solved a problem that netted them $10,000.

Darius Calliet, Deanna Shipley, Akeda Hosten

Darius Calliet, a junior majoring in computer science, and Akeda Hosten, a junior majoring in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science, joined with Deanna Shipley, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2013, to form a team that competed in the MasterCard Give Back-A-Thon Nov. 15-16 at MasterCard’s facilities in O’Fallon, Mo.

The 30-hour Give Back-A-Thon was designed to provide ideas to provide some solutions for challenges faced by the United Way of Greater St. Louis, such as increasing donations and interacting with and retaining volunteers. The team’s winning entry was for Pennies for Change, which allows users to round up any purchase to the nearest dollar and donate the “change” to the United Way.

“We wanted to make something that would engage people and also encourage them to donate more if they feel like they haven’t donated enough or want to feel like they are making an impact,” Calliet says.

The team created a web interface that includes dashboards that allow donors to see how much they are giving and where the money is going. Each month, donors can choose a different cause to donate to, such as education or health.

“People always have extra money to give, especially spare change, but often they don’t want to make a $100 commitment,” says Calliet, a native of New Orleans. “If people consistently give, they are more willing to do it.”
Calliet says because this hackathon gives back to the community, it was different from the others in which he has participated.

“In other hackathons, you come up with a great idea to pursue it, but for this one, we wanted to let the United Way do what they want with it,” he says. “I like to solve problems, and if the United Way was having a problem, it was nice to find a solution.”

Calliet plans to participate in the upcoming GlobalHack Dec. 5-7. In addition to participating in previous hackathons, he is getting good experience through his part-time job at TopOPPS, a St. Louis-based tech startup, where is he a Javascript and front-end mobile developer.

The School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis focuses intellectual efforts through a new convergence paradigm and builds on strengths, particularly as applied to medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship and security. With 91 tenured/tenure-track and 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, more than 900 graduate students and more than 23,000 alumni, we are working to leverage our partnerships with academic and industry partners — across disciplines and across the world — to contribute to solving the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.