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Hacking at the Problem

“How do we convince teens to go outside?” That’s the question 15 students across grades and interests spent all day tackling as they worked to come up with a great product in reply.

The old adage “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” might be a cliche, but it rang true while observing the second-ever Carondelet Hackathon. This day-long exercise in collaborative problem solving was not so much a game as an opportunity for students to think differently and explore what it means to be an entrepreneur.

Certainly, the competition existed, but more than that, the experience of collaboration and teamwork electrified the room. While everyone started with the same over-arching question, each group identified their own problems to solve and their own answers. “The hardest part was coming up with just one idea,” said Iris Perezalonso ’22.

All-day, she and 15 other Carondelet students worked in teams of three to come up with a product that answers the question: “How do we encourage teens to get outside?” While every team got the same question, each took a different path to their unique prototype.

Each project was unique as groups determined which motivators to employ. As the day went on, students narrowed their focus–– building prototypes, pitching projects, and finally presenting to experts

“I would use this,” said Ava Ribando ’22 whose group’s idea was an app with challenges that would motivate people to get out and go. Another was a subscription box that might provide supplies for outdoor fun.

From discovery to collaboration, each group came up with something they might enjoy and employed design thinking strategies to get there. “It’s really just about being able to help inspire them to think outside the box,” said Kimber Powers, a mentor for the Hackathon and the Director of Community Relations. “It’s a lot of fun! There’s so much great energy!”

Powers mentored two teams throughout the day, one of which was down a member. Rather than get split up, though, the students decided to give it a go with just the two of them. Theirs was the only two-person team.

Abigail Sengendo ’24 and Claire Collins ’23 had never met but realized they were in a club together and immediately clicked. “Personally, I felt like we had a good connection,” said Claire Collins ’23. “We could work well as a team. That’s why we chose to stay together.”

That connection took them far. Their idea? An adventure journal complete with maps of California, activities to do, and space to be creative, called the Cal-Adventure Book The unique concept would encourage teenagers to get outdoors and explore without the use of technology.

“I think we have a chance,” said Abigail Sengendo ’24 about the prototype. Her enthusiasm showed through in the way she and Claire explained the book, and how they opted to pursue the idea–– eventually leading to their idea winning.

In addition to recognizing this project, each participant received an award based on their leadership skills, their inventive mind, their creativity, and so much more. Just signing up to explore new skills and collaborative opportunities.

Overall, the real prize was the opportunity to experience real experts and take part in a process that can be replicated in the future. The skills practiced throughout the day and the lessons learned will not be forgotten, even if their project pitches eventually are. 


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