Calm amid chaos
Amazon Future Engineer interns Hoden Abdi-Yusuf, Damon Hines, Karina Patel, and Almitra Dabholkar won a friendly hackathon by inventing a new Alexa skill called “Keep Calm,” which focuses on meditation, positivity, and mindfulness.
The skill was inspired by the interns’ partner nonprofit, the Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) in Bellevue, Washington, a nonprofit who primarily serves students from underserved and underrepresented communities and works to help them reach their full potential, as “productive, caring, and responsible citizens.”
“Plenty of youth who come through our doors don’t want to go home afterwards,” said Masao Yamada, from the Club Teen Center at the BGCA. “Alexa’s not going to judge them, so they can walk into the room and go through these exercises without feeling uncomfortable.”
Yamada, one of the hackathon judges, realized that his students might benefit from speaking to Alexa in ways to build mindfulness without the risk of judgment or misunderstanding from an adult meditation guide. He invited Abdi-Yusuf and team to test it at the center, and it was a hit.
Excited by the positive reception their skill garnered from their fellow interns, Amazon employees, and the teen center, the interns worked to certify the skill to ensure the young adults at the BGCA, and people everywhere, could take advantage of the skill. The Alexa skill provides guided deep breathing, stretching, self-reflection questions, and positive affirmations in a world full of constant and sometimes negative noise.
“[This Alexa skill provides] a routine of how to get out of a funk, out of this space in your mind, and equip you with your own toolkit to dealing with your anxiety or whatever hardships,” explained Abdi-Yusuf.
To access the “Keep Calm” skill, enable it from the Alexa Skills Store and then say, “Alexa, open the Keep Calm skill."
Amazon Future Engineer is a four-part childhood to career program aimed at increasing computer science education access for students from underserved and underrepresented communities.