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  • Writer's pictureAnja Nguyen

HARA: From One Spark to Four Trailblazers

Team HARA booked the earliest meeting slot available in my schedule. On a Tuesday morning, we joined the group call.

‘’It’s actually midnight here, 12:00 AM.’’ - The girls laughed.

HARA, or Hyewon, Annie, Rachael and Ashley

The app’s name, (which is also the team’s name) is an acronym for the members’ first names. Annie, Rachael and Ashley are originally from East Asia, but were born and raised in the USA/Canada. Hyewon's family immigrated to the USA when she was 7 years old.

Rachael, Hyewon, and Ashley go to the same university: the University of California, Berkeley. UC Berkeley is a prestigious institute known for its particularly entrepreneurial alumni, including the founders and co-founders of Apple, Tesla, Intel, eBay, SoftBank, AIG, and Morgan Stanley. Annie attends Purdue University, a public research university in Indiana with excellent STEM programs.

Rachael—the team leader—is a junior pursuing double majors in public health and nutritional science. She recently declared both of her majors officially, and she is excited to formally advance to the next level of her academic and professional vision: bridging together the worlds of nutrition, technology, health policy, and global health systems.


Annie is a rising sophomore who is double majoring in computer science and data science. She is one of the co-developers for this project, and used Android Studio to build a working prototype during the hackathon.


Ashley is also a rising sophomore and serves as co-developer for HARA alongside Annie. She has a background in computer science and also shares a special interest in the environment.


Hyewon is a rising sophomore double majoring in nutritional science and environmental economics. She is the researcher of the team, contributing to HARA’s detailed pitch deck.


The team was formed a week before the Hackathon started. Rachael was searching on Google for some food-related opportunities to make use of her expertise, and she eventually came across Feeding the Future - An Online Hackathon (6/26-28) on the Eventbrite webpage. Rachael joined the FoodTechies Discord server to look for a team. Deciding to turn to her network, she reached out to her fellow members in the Berkeley Alternative Protein Project. After seeing Rachael’s post, Hyewon contacted her and a team of two was created. They quickly realized that their project couldn’t be done without web developers, and thus reached out to more friends. Ultimately, Annie and Ashley joined HARA to round out the team perfectly.

‘’Time zone wasn’t an obstacle at all.’’

Winning the Hackathon wasn’t the team’s initial goal. HARA had little experience participating in a hackathon —their very first concern was to try to get used to each other’s working style. One day before the hackathon, they still didn’t really know each other, but dove wholeheartedly into this collaboration-heavy project.

“It was kind of awkward at the beginning,” Rachael laughed.

Due to geographical restrictions and the COVID-19 pandemic, the ladies used regular Zoom meetings to collaborate on their work and keep one another updated on progress.

During the 48 hour Hackathon, Rachael stayed up until 6:00 AM Pacific Time both days to keep her team members informed so that they could be on the same page. She also went to talk to all of the mentors for at least 30 minutes to ask for constructive ideas and feedback. She stated that she didn’t even feel tired: ‘’I felt really energized by the adrenaline rush of the hackathon.’’

As for the developers, Annie said that it was a really good experience since she and Ashley managed to synchronize their working pace together well. Annie is an early bird, while Ashley is a night owl. They took turns to work on app programming, then in the afternoon, they would conference together to tackle any problems that they couldn’t solve on their own. According to the two, their inverted schedule was a big plus for preventing burnout.

In the beginning, Hyewon thought the Hackathon would be tough for them because of the gap between UTC -7 (California) and UTC +3 (Finland). However, everything went smoothly as the team successfully divided the work, such that each person could work on the parts using their own schedule. She didn’t forget to mention that Rachael fulfilled her team leader role well for keeping them up to date during the competition.

HARA believes teamwork is the key: ‘’We filled in each other’s space. If we were busier or taking a break then another member would step up. We’re very flexible and we immediately developed trust towards one another.’’

Looking towards the future, HARA is looking forward to implementing their business idea. The ladies excitedly share that there are still many things they would like to develop their knowledge on: ‘’It’s crazy to be named as the winner. We have lots of hopes for the future—we’re going to keep moving forward. We hope to both propel our project forward in Finland as well as expand to other locations, hopefully starting with Berkeley or a similar city.’’

‘’Staying up late and working at midnight is not a problem for us! We guess it’s a common thing for all university students.’’

Congratulations to team HARA once again for achieving the unexpected.

Their pitching performance can be watched here.

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