UPDATE (Feb. 20) -- The FAMU HCASC team has advanced to the National HCASC Tournament.
Feb. 14 -- The journey to claim the title of the 2014 Honda Campus All-Star Challenge (HCASC) champion will begin for Florida A&M University (FAMU) students on Feb. 15 at the national qualifying tournament at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Ala.
FAMU is a seven-time HCASC national champion and was last year’s runner up. After succeeding at the qualifying tournament, the FAMU team will advance to the national tournament, held in April in California, to compete against the top 48 historically black colleges and universities. The academic challenge is being dubbed “the Olympics of the Mind.”
Finalists will be announced on Feb. 20 via a live webcast. The championship team will win a $50,000 grant for its university.
The students representing FAMU for this year’s challenge are: Kimberlyn Elliott, a history major from Gainesville Fla.; Travian Albert, a computer and electrical engineering major from Milton, Fla.; Roslyn Shanklin, a mechanical engineering major from New Haven, Conn. and Aubrey Upshur III, a newspaper journalism major from Philadelphia, Penn.
According to Upshur, a returning player who was named one of the top 10 All-Stars of 2013, the team is ready to rise to the occasion and bring home the championship title to FAMU in April.
“I don’t expect anything from myself and my teammates but the best,” Upshur said. “When we go to California, people expect the best from us because we are FAMU. We compete against the best and brightest in the nation, and FAMU has won regularly. So, the lesson from that is FAMU has so many talented people and so many resources and that’s what makes us the best university in the nation, whether people know it or not.”
This year, the FAMU team will be coached by Vivian Hobbs, Ph.D., who has coordinated the team since the All-Star Challenge was instituted more than 25 years ago.
Hobbs, a retired FAMU English professor, dedicates every Saturday morning to working with the students. She says the team’s successes over the years are a testament to the academic excellence of FAMU’s degree programs and to the work-ethic and diligence of the students.
“The chances they get to compete academically here at FAMU, solidifies the fact that they can compete on any stage around the world. They have gone on to become the movers and shakers of the world,” Hobbs said, adding that participants not only prepare for the annual competition when they meet on Saturdays, but also learn etiquette and participate in self-esteem building activities, and community and campus service projects.
Making the FAMU team, which has garnered more than $500,000 for the university through its winnings, is no easy task. Between 25-50 students begin competing for a spot on the team at the beginning of the academic year. They practice year-round by facing off with one another until finalists are selected to move on to challenge other HBCU students at the qualifying and national events.
Students who have completed the All-Star program have gone on to pursue doctorate degrees from prestigious institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University, and have returned to FAMU to become distinguished professors.