When their mother approached them about joining the STEAM Academy Hackathon in June, Dallas siblings Gabriel (19) and Savannah (17) Crutchfield were a bit skeptical at first. They had little to no idea what to expect, but they agreed to give it a try.
Upon arrival to The Potter’s House for T.D. Jakes Foundation’s two-week immersive experience presented by the Dallas Mavericks and powered by Goldman Sachs, Gabriel and Savannah were grouped with four other students into a team, each of which was led by a Goldman Sachs engineer.
“During the first week, it was a whole lot of brainstorming and trying to get all of us all on the same page,” Savannah explained. “We had several topics to choose from, and we decided on mental health. Once we made that decision, we had to figure out what we wanted to do within that topic. It was cool!”
The team created a concept for a therapy app called Flourish, which would connect people suffering from mental illnesses to one another, allowing users to share their experiences and offer each other advice, coping mechanisms and resources.
“Once we landed on a concept, we moved to the technical side,” Gabriel said. “We had to create a coding program for the app — the design, layout, framework, everything.”
For Gabriel, working collaboratively was a highlight of the program.
“I loved being able to work with other people, getting everyone else’s ideas and working together as a group,” he said.
Toward the end of the program, the teams all presented their ideas in the trial rounds. That was Savannah’s favorite part.
“Even though it was nerve-wracking, I really enjoyed presenting,” she said. “At that point in the competition, you could tell everyone really wanted to win — everyone was doing whatever they could to advance to that final stage, which we did. Then we got to present to everyone. It was really fun overall!”
The Crutchfield siblings and Team Flourish took home the top prize of the Hackathon, which includes an upcoming trip to a Dallas Mavericks game.
The experience was not only fun, but it also proved to be formational as the siblings look to their futures.
“Prior to the Hackathon, I had an idea that I might want to study software engineering,” Gabriel said. “The Hackathon confirmed that for me.”
“During the Hackathon, I realized I enjoyed being the one explaining our product and providing a certain point of view to the audience,” said Savannah, who is considering a career in public relations. “And as a musician, there are many other correlations with music and technology, so now I’m interested in learning more about software engineering.”
The Crutchfields fully recommend the STEAM Academy to other students who might be considering participating in the future.
“Don’t knock it before you try it,” Gabriel said. “A lot of people were there because their parents signed them up, but then we all ended up having a great time and learned so much. So, I would encourage others to fully embrace the experience.”