UMES’ Battle of the Brains team from left, are: T’Naisha McLean Addison (senior, biology), Ezra Cable (junior, biochemistry), Jasmine Pearson (senior, biology), Dr. Victoria Volkis (professor of chemistry, faculty mentor), Keith Bratley (grad student, chemistry, team captain), Dr. William Weaver (associate visiting professor of chemistry, faculty trainer), Bokary Sylla (senior, chemistry), and Riham Alhag (grad student, agriculture). Breann Green, a grad student in the MEES program is not pictured. Photo by Todd Dudek, Ag Communications.

A team of UMES students are hard at work preparing for the 5th annual HBCU Battle of the Brains, described as “a national academic championship and experiential diversity recruiting showcase.”  They will travel to Austin, Texas, March 8-14 to be pitted against teams from other historically Black colleges and universities in a business challenge competition.  It is a first for UMES.

From a field of approximately 50 teams, seven final teams will face off in the finals to vie for a top institutional prize of $50,000 ($25,000 and $10,000 for second and third, respectively) along with eight individual scholarships ranging from $2,000-$5,000.  The teams will have 24 hours to tackle a business challenge developing a solution that incorporates design, policy, business and STEM components, said Dr. Victoria Volkis, a chemistry professor at UMES and the faculty mentor.  Teams, she said, will be judged on their analysis and solution to the business problem along with their presentation and their performance during a Q&A session.

UMES’ team has already secured $2,500 from sponsors to help defray travel expenses, Volkis said.  In preparation for the competition, members have been tasked with studying sponsoring companies, including the National Football League (the title sponsor), Dell Technologies, VMWare, Amazon, Thrivent, ESPN, Charles Schwab, Intel, CrowdStrike, eBay, Walmart, Expedia Group, Electronic Arts Square, HEB, the Home Depot, Tesla, Apple, Squarespace, JPMorgan, Chase, Nordstrom and the Major League Baseball Association.  They have also been receiving training in technology transfer, business plans, advertising, marketing, statistics and other aspects designed to complement the team’s knowledge in STEM disciplines, Volkis said.  Special thanks, she said, are in order to UMES faculty and staff, including Dr. William Weaver (Natural Sciences,) Dr. Russel Kohl (Mathematics), Dr. Pamela Allison (Technology Transfer), Suzanne Street (Ag Communications, SANS) and WOM Communications LTD.

Gail Stephens, agricultural communications, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences,, 410-251-7009.

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