Elon Women in STEM team wins Best Fintech Hack at Pearl Hacks 2023

Capitol One recognized Anna Mitchell '23, Sreyrath Poeun '23, Anahy Felipe de la Cruz '24 and Bridgette Mercier '24 for their project to help banks predict whether potential clients would accept loan offers.

Eight Elon students attended the Pearl Hacks 2023 hackathon at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on Feb. 10-12, with one group winning Best Fintech Hack for their project.

Anna Mitchell ’23, Sreyrath Poeun ’23, Anahy Felipe de la Cruz ’24 and Bridgette Mercier ’24 used data from Poeun’s MKT 3110 Principles of Marketing Course to create a program to help financial institutions better predict whether clients would accept specific loan offers. Their project included a front-end user interface for clients to input their information and a back-end code that employed machine learning and data to deliver outcome predictions to financial institutions.

Representatives of Capital One, a sponsor of Pearl Hacks, awarded the project Best Fintech Hack. Pearl Hacks is a hackathon for women and gender non-conforming individuals in technology held each year since 2015. Hundreds attend the event annually. Hackathons bring teams of tech-savvy people together to solve problems using data and coding.

Other Elon students who participated were Maddie Volchko ’23, Sophie Halish ’23, Kai Indeglia ’26 and Bonnie Baffo-Bonnie ’24. All eight students are members of Elon Women in STEM, a pilot program aimed at recruiting and retaining women and female-identifying students in STEM majors.

Elon Women in STEM is focused on building community among female undergraduates and connecting them to professional development opportunities that will lead to successful STEM careers. The program is a partnership among Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Student Professional Development Center and Accelerate Success. The program is in its first year and includes peer-mentoring, conversations with and presentations by leading women STEM professionals, networking opportunities and social activities.

Mitchell, a computer science and statistics double major, said her first hackathon  made her interested in attending more. While at Pearl Hacks, she and other Elon students attended informational sessions around coding, web design and other technologies in addition to completing their projects. Presenting their project to judges and other teams was the aspect she found most valuable.

“When someone came to our table, we would walk them through our project and explain how the front-end and back-end worked. Hearing their feedback and being grilled with questions was good professional practice for explaining and justifying your work to different groups of people,” Mitchell said.

It was also Poeun’s first hackathon. A finance and statistics double major, she enjoyed the challenge and freedom offered by the broad project categories, which allowed her team to be creative in how they approached their project.

“Data analytics is my passion,” Poeun said. “I love working with a pile of numbers that don’t make sense and using machine learning to understand them. It’s powerful to understand that jumble of big data.”

Both said their time with Elon Women in STEM has been well-spent, and that they’ve made new connections and friends through the program.

“Elon Women in STEM has created a community that wouldn’t exist otherwise,” Mitchell said. “We have student clubs, but those have a different atmosphere. This creates community through mentor-mentee relationships and builds our confidence through sessions targeted to our professional development, like interviewing skills, practices for negotiating and dealing with situations in the workplace. It’s really valuable and good information for us to have.”