Ground Breaking Psych-Tech App Development Project Engages Students and Community Organizations in Problem-Solving Through Education

Christopher Bertelli

Unique collaboration between students, faculty and community organizations provides hands-on experience and training while raising awareness of mental health issues.

On September 30, 2016, approximately 50 Sacramento area high school students will meet on the Sacramento State University campus and begin a process of developing mobile applications to meet community mental health needs. Students will be back on campus to present their apps at a November 18 conference. This first-of-its-kind endeavor has been dubbed the “Psych-Tech App Development Project” and is being sponsored and organized by the Department of Psychology at Sacramento State University, Capital Region Academies for the Next Economy (CRANE) and the Sacramento Valley Psychological Association (SVPA).

All of the high school students participating in the project are from health or computer technology pathway programs at their local schools. The students will work in groups and be mentored by Sacramento State University students. One of the unique aspects of this project is that each group of high school students will be mentored by university students studying psychology as well as students pursuing computer science degrees.

“Having mobile apps available for a situation as time-critical as a mental health episode can provide instant resources for those in need--either the person experiencing a mental health crisis or those trying to help the person facing a mental health issue,” said Darrell Parsons, CRANE Coordinator for Health-Biological Pathways. “It makes sense to bring both the mental health and technical sides of this equation together from the beginning to ensure the students’ solutions are as effective and practical as possible.”

In addition to being paired with mentors who will assist in the design process and technical execution, the high school students will participate in a full day of activities that allows students to engage in social and emotional learning activities and receive an overview of current issues in psychology, mental health, and technology.

“The high school students will be able to work directly with university students in psychology who are quite knowledgeable on social and emotional learning and mental health topics,” said Dr. Greg Kim, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Project at Sacramento State. “We will spend the next six weeks working with these student leaders on developing apps that can facilitate greater awareness and responsiveness to critical mental health issues in our communities.”

Dr. Daniel Rockers, the president of the SVPA and originator of the Psych-Tech concept, will give opening remarks at the September 30 event while he and fellow SVPA psychologists will provide professional expertise on mental health issues to the Psych-Tech students.

“Psych-Tech students could provide mobile apps that serve an incredible need in our region for increased mental health awareness and resources,” said Dr. Rockers. “SVPA has worked with CRANE and Sacramento State in the past to help high school students develop public service announcements on mental health issues. We are excited to take this next step with CRANE and Sacramento State in developing a new generation of mental health leaders willing to give back to society and contribute in meaningful ways.”

In addition to helping raise awareness of mental health issues, the Psych-Tech App Development Project is giving important hands-on experience to high school students as well as fostering important collaboration opportunities between high schools, colleges and area industry representatives. These kinds of collaborative efforts help students identify and engage college and career pathways earlier, provide critical experience, and often lead to greater rates of postsecondary persistence.

“Students are going to be a lot more successful in today’s ever-changing economy if we, as educators, break down the barriers between high school, college and the working world and give students the skills and information they need to make college and career choices sooner, ” said Carey Shannon, a teacher with the Placer County Office of Education whose students are participating in Psych-Tech. “Projects like this one are critical if we are going to truly prepare students to thrive in the current economy and expose them to real-world challenges they can help solve.”


The Capital Region Academies for the Next Economy (CRANE) is a consortium of 22 school districts and county offices of education in the Sacramento region, focused on the mission to provide students with rigorous academic and career pathways that are linked to economic and labor market needs.

About SVPA

The Sacramento Valley Psychological Association (SVPA) promotes education, advocacy, and networking opportunities for psychologists to advance our field and benefit our community. We are a regional Chapter of the California Psychological Association (CPA) representing psychologists throughout the greater Sacramento Valley area. We encourage professionals, legislators, and the public to learn more about the resources we extend to our community.

About Sacramento State University Department of Psychology

We seek to educate, research, and practice in the field of psychology with dedication and enthusiasm. We facilitate students’ intellectual and personal growth. We prepare students for graduate studies, the workforce, managing citizenship responsibilities and life demands. We advance the many areas of our discipline through active and creative scholarship. We serve diverse communities through meaningful collaborations with people and organizations. Through teaching, scholarship, and service we promote human equity, health and well-being, effective functioning, and respect for diversity