QUEST Student Takes on Technica with Her QUEST 190H Project

Last semester, QUEST Cohort 31 was challenged with creating innovating and impactful new technologies to tackle an important issue for the bits-based project. One member of Q31, Samantha Pearlstein, decided to take her team’s project, a mobile application called “Neuron,” to the next level by developing it during the University of Maryland’s annual Technica Hackathon.

Technica is the largest all-women Hackathon in the United States and is held every year on UMD’s campus. Over the course of 24 hours, students work on small teams to create and develop an innovative hack or application. At the end, a ceremony is held to celebrate the winners of the Hackathon and the hard work that all the teams put in over the course of the event.

Sam’s team consisted of herself and three other UMD students: Sriv Parameswaran, Angela Pan, and Renee Yang. They used an ionic framework (a development tool that can easily translate between a mobile application and a website) to design and create an interface that focused on user experience, as well as back-end functionalities such as data storage. After a long, sleepless night consisting of coding (and a box of Cheerios), the team ultimately won the award for “Best Hack for Community Building.” Nextdoor, the company that sponsors the prize, plans to feature the project on their blog in the coming months.

The project, first designed in Sam’s 190H class, is named “Neuron,” giving nod to its focus on mental health issues and the importance of personal connections and communication. According to Sam, “Neuron strives to connect neurotypical and atypical people through dialogue and communication in order to end the stigma surrounding mental health.” The app’s interface allows people to contribute stories about their experiences with mental health, either as someone who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition or as a supporter and loved one of someone who has. It aims at building a network community of individuals to help inform and support people both with and without mental health conditions.

Sam, a sophomore Computer Science major from Danville, California, currently has plans to intern as a Security Engineer at Cisco over the summer. After college, she hopes to blend the technical skills she is developing through her CS coursework with the business and management skills she has learned through QUEST. She plans to work at a tech company and keep developing projects that will make a difference in her community. She credits QUEST with helping her learn how to rely on other people and develop interpersonal and professional skills that are important to her future career.

Sam felt very connected to the project after doing research on the topic of mental health in her 190H class and realizing how important and prevalent the issue is in her community. As she puts it, “Creating an app like this could really make a difference in people’s lives so I decided to actually try to make it happen.” With the help of her QUEST team, she was able to find an issue that she was passionate about and come up with an innovative solution. With the help of Technica, she was able to bring it to life.

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