ELIZABETH CITY, N.C – Two Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) students – De’vonte Frazier and Evan Jones – were chosen as participants in the HBCU Small Cities Challenge, to showcase their commitment to driving positive change in their communities.  

The HBCU Small Cities Challenge, an initiative designed to empower students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), focuses on addressing critical challenges faced by small cities across the nation. Frazier, a sophomore, unmanned aircraft systems student called his time participating in the challenge “thrilling” and “a good learning experience.” 

“Being part of the HBCU Small Cities Challenge was a chance for us to use our skills and knowledge to tackle real-world issues facing our local communities,” he said. 

For five months, students from various HBCUs, participated in weekly meetings and other workshops, learning about Internet of Things (IoT), analyzing data for their respective problem statements, and using their combined knowledge to develop potential solutions.  

The duo collaborated with fellow students and mentors to develop innovative solutions to challenges identified by the community.  

Through research, community outreach, and collaboration, they aimed to propose sustainable and impactful solutions that addressed pressing issues facing small and rural cities. The duo won first place for their pitch, “The Big Switch.”  

“The problems related to the challenge were economic disparities and safety. Water Management in the city of Rocky Mount is slow progress and lacks up-to-date resources to ensure water is going around need be, and the safety aspect comes down to the people they were sending out to check on the water,” Frazier said. “All the team members participated greatly, and we were all acknowledged by the PathwayOz team and spectators alike from high places.” 

 This opportunity also allowed Frazier and Jones to network with potential employers through the challenge’s career fair. 

“This opportunity allowed me to speak with leaders within various positions of leadership, to network and potentially have a gateway to an employment opportunity upon graduating,” said Frazier.