STEM in Action Update: Local tech students win Code-A-Thon at Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Competition Exposes Students to Growing Opportunities for Local Workforce Talent

Of the more than 218 million Americans eligible to vote, only two-thirds are registered to do so. But thanks to local students participating in the first-ever Code-A-Thon, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, a simple three-step solution could be available in an app.

Fifteen Lawrence and Kansas City-area tech-savvy students representing three of the University of Kansas’ technology-focused degrees recently participated the competition. One of the university’s teams, Rock Chalk 1, took home first-place honors for its voter registration and activation app.

The winning team included (from left): Annette Tetmeyer, associate professor of practice/academic program director for KU’s information technology program in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with  Andrew Tribble, Alex Warrington, Justin Roderman, Zach Welk and Alex Shadley.

All student teams had 48 hours to develop an innovative cause-related app solving real-life problems in a creative and meaningful way. The winning team created ElectionIQ, which enables unregistered voters to seamlessly become registered voters. The app also helps users locate their polling place and preview an election ballot with national, state and local candidates and issues. Kansas City Fed technology employees judged the submissions on innovativeness, user experience, functionality, impact/potential and presentation. The other teams’ apps addressed connecting volunteer opportunities with interested people and organizations soliciting pro bono expertise from college students.

Three Kansas City-area students on Rock Chalk 1 are pursuing their Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degrees at the KU Edwards Campus; they are Andrew Tribble, Alex Warrington and Zach Welk. The other team members, Justin Roderman and Alex Shadley, are working toward their bachelor’s degree in computer science in Lawrence. Both degrees are ABET-accredited and offered by the School of Engineering. 

The Code-A-Thon is part of the Kansas City Fed’s university outreach program, which exposes students and graduates to the organization’s abundant technology careers. In fact, 50 percent of its employees serve in some technology-related capacity.

“Technology is no longer a nice to have, it’s interwoven in the DNA of business,” said Brian Faros, chief information officer and vice president application delivery services for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “Working to cultivate new talent and inspire young people to choose careers in science and technology is just as vital to the future of nearly every industry.” 

Additionally, the competition gave students real-word experience working in virtual teams, creating something from scratch, learning new software and solving problems under a tight deadline.

“This experience went way beyond what I expected to learn,” said student Alex Warrington. “It was challenging and took me out of my comfort zone, but it was really rewarding and definitely complemented my coursework.”

In all, 29 students representing KU, Kansas State University and Missouri University of Science and Technology participated in the event.