An Open Letter to 2017 Technovation Mentors

Dear Technovation Mentors,

I am excited and honored to see the start of the eighth season of Technovation! I wanted to share some of the history and evolution in philosophy and model so you have a sense of where we are coming from and where we are headed.

We started Technovation in 2010 as a small cohort of 45 girls, hosted by Google in Mountain View. The program ran once a week for 9 weeks, after work hours. Each team of girls had mentors who came from local universities and corporations; and the entire group was led through the curriculum by an instructor.  The goal of the program was to provide a first hand experience in entrepreneurship using technology, and thereby help build a strong sense of self-efficacy in the girls.

Over the next three years we scaled the model to 6 sites in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and Boston. As we scaled, we ran into two interesting issues: 1) We had a hard time finding instructors who were comfortable both with the entrepreneurship content as well as the technology component (this was 8 years ago, before entrepreneurship became so hip!),  2) The unforeseen issue we ran into with this model was that we were serving girls who already had access to a lot of resources. The model was constrained by the girls’ ability to access the corporation that was hosting the program.

Technovation’s parent organization is Iridescent and Iridescent’s mission is to help underserved youth, especially girls to become innovators and leaders using engineering and technology.

So keeping this mission in mind, we put the Technovation curriculum online in 2013, using Mozilla’s P2PU platform. We were one of the first online courses (this was before MOOC was even a word :).  We had no idea what would happen, but it seemed that we needed to do something dramatically different to increase access to technology education.  We leveraged Iridescent’s global networks and were able to get girls from 19 countries to participate in the program. The girls from Nigeria had a chance to present their app to the First Lady of Nigeria and the UN’s ITU Secretary General congratulated them on their work.

We were heartened by the uptake and proceeded to devote the next 3 years to expanding the program internationally, as well as evaluating the long-term impact of the model on the girls.

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Alumni Spotlight: Amina Chida

 

Technovation recently had the chance to sit down with Amina Chida, a participant from 2015 and talk about who and what inspires Amina, what advice she has for young women interested in tech, and what tools and strategies she uses to overcome challenges.

Tell us about yourself!AminaChida

I am Amina Chida I am 18 years old and I am from El Kef. I study in the Pioneer secondary school there in the Mathematics section. I am really interested in technology.  I want to become an engineer–I dream of inventing something that will change the world and make it a better place. I dream of being a leader and a global changemaker.

Who or what inspired you to pursue tech? Who is your role model in tech?

What inspired me to pursue tech … I would say that my own curiosity sparkled my interest and got me involved in the tech field. I am really keen on using the computer I use for almost everything : chatting, playing games, reading articles, watching movies, discovering news… and I used to ask myself these questions a lot : What is the secret behind this amazing invention ? How did they do it? How did they create the internet? What lies behind this screen of pictures, videos, chatrooms … I got to the point where being a simple user and consumer wasn’t enough anymore and felt I should find an answer to these questions. That is how I started searching and learning technology.

My role model is Bill Gates, I consider him a legend and I don’t know what the world of tech would be without him. He is really intelligent and I admire him for following his passion and changing humanity. I also worship him because apart from being the biggest business owner on earth he is a philanthropist.

What advice would you give to young women interested in going into tech?

I want to encourage every young woman fond of technology to pursue her interest and to work hard in order to accomplish what she aims for.

If you are a girl and you love tech then don’t ever let people tell you you cannot go into tech because you are not smart enough and tech is too complicated for you. Programming is difficult that is for sure, but you don’t have to be a genius to create something new to learn how to program! If you have the passion and the determination to succeed in tech, then know that you have what it takes to be the next “ Steve Jobs” or the next “bill Gates “ and don’t ever let the fact that men are dominating this field keep you from delving deeper into tech ! You have to show the world you can do it. Have faith in yourself and believe that “when there is a will there is a way.” … Although it may sound cliché, saying this to yourself really helps.

Finally, you don’t have to miss any opportunity ! There are plenty of programs, challenges, competitions, workshops, internships that will help you develop your technological skills. Get involved, participate, learn as much as you can.

Tell us about a challenge you’ve faced with technology or Technovation, and how you overcame it.

The biggest challenge I faced with both technology and Technovation is when my coding doesn’t work. I have spent days trying to program something and no matter what I did my coding still didn’t operate. Sometimes, I was so angry I wanted to switch off my computer  and give up. But, eventually I managed to overcome my anger and to persist till I succeeded to make the right code and the app operated! What led me to this is certainly patience, perseverance, and especially not being ashamed to ask for help and assistance.

Would you like to share your story with the Technovation community? Email Maggie at [email protected] 

Using Innovation for Public Safety: MaduraiCityPolice App


By Katy Santa Maria

Residents of Madurai, India, don’t always feel safe where they live. According to recent census data, the number of public citizens far outweighs the number of those in the police protecting them—600 to 1. As a result, communication between concerned residents and their understaffed, under-resourced police centers is often inefficient and slow.

MauraiCityPolice AppA group of girls in Madurai designed a solution—through innovation and technology—to tackle their city’s critical issue with communication in public safety. The app is called MaduraiCityPolice, which allows Madurai community members—and particularly women, who are more afraid to risk reaching out for help—to send complaints and messages of emergency to their local police force. All it takes is a simple tap on a mobile device.

These girls designed, built, and launched their app through the supportive network of our Technovation program, which encourages young women across the globe to design, build, and launch mobile apps that solve their communities’ toughest problems. Senthil Kumar, engineer for Qualcomm, is the rockstar Technovation ambassador who travels the 270-plus mile (435 km) trek from Bangalore to Madurai every weekend to coach this amazing group of girls.

In the first week of MaduraiCityPolice’s launch, more than 2,000 people downloaded the app and over 30 complaints filed in every day, with efficiency and speed. We asked Senthil’s inventors more about this inspiring story—what we heard from them reaffirms our enthusiasm to #LeadTheChange:

How did you come up with the idea for this app?

All of our energy and passion is to make Madurai as a better and safe place to live. (more…)

Global Citizen Fest

Technovation at the Global Citizen Festival

By Katie Morton

Global Citizen Fest
Priyanka Chopra onstage at the Global Citizen Festival, along with Technovation alums  Priya and Isabelle

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Priyanka Chopra  announced our formal partnership with Google Made with Code and UN Women at the Global Citizen Festival on September 24th.

A fitting venue for the occasion, the Global Citizen Festival was a celebratory event bringing thousands of people together to raise awareness of and advocate for the world’s most pressing social issues.  Seven Technovation alumnae from New York City were invited by Google to take part in the festivities and help announce the launch of the new Technovation season. Given VIP status for the day, Technovation girls had a full agenda!


We started out the day in a black limousine which took us to the lunch spot Sugar Plumm. When we arrived, we entered a room full of 50+ teen girls from other coding organizations such as Black Girls Code, Code.org, CS Edge, Girls Inc. and Black Girls Rock. An uplifting and powerful way to begin the day, students had the opportunity to hear from women who made a career in technology and used code to change people’s lives. (more…)

The 2017 Season Begins! Code for Change

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“What would the world look like if only 20 percent of women knew how to write?” That’s the question YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki poses at the start of her recent post on Google’s blog announcing Google’s partnership with Global Citizens for the Global Citizen Fest – and their partnership with Iridescent and UN Women for the 2017 season.

As Wojcicki points out in her post, we lose out immeasurably when only a fraction of people have developed a skill, and as technology transforms our world more and more, a great deal is at stake when the majority of women don’t know how to write code. 

As registration opens for the 2017 season and we begin another year of inviting girls around the world to share their visions for change and then create that change using code, we are proud to be doing so in partnership with Google’s Made with Code and UN Women.

This year you’ll notice that we’re asking teams to solve problems that align with some key Global Goals as identified by the United Nation (poverty, environment, peace, and equality). Join us to Lead the Change in 2017 and help create the blueprint for a better world through code.

Register for the 2017 Technovation season here, or learn more about how you can participate and add your voice to the global movement through Made with Code.

Do you feel the same?

This piece was composed by Tara Chklovski, founder and CEO of Iridescent, to recognize the achievements of all Technovation program participants

Do you feel the same?

Tara Chklovski

I failed at something that I had worked all my life to try to accomplish.
Has that ever happened to you?
It shakes your confidence. You don’t know what is real anymore.
You don’t have a foundation.
Your image of yourself is shattered.

I went under a shell. It was warm.
But I got restless.
I wanted to do something big, something larger than myself
Something that would help improve the lives of others.

I decided to start something new — a nonprofit
That would inspire children all over the world
To change their own worlds for the better
Because children often know best

But starting is so hard.
I had never started anything before in my life.
I didn’t know how to.
Would I be successful?
What is success anyway?
Does success even matter?
Who defines success and labels it as such?
Have you ever wondered that?

I was scared to start.
But then my husband dared me to start.
And I did.

That was ten years ago.
Iridescent is a global education nonprofit now
Helping thousands of young people
Change their worlds around them
By innovating and being brave.

I needed a little push, even if it was just a trivial dare.

Did Technovation give you that little push?
To program a mobile app?
To launch a startup?

If someone asked you last year, “Are you a technology entrepreneur?”
What would you have said then?
What would you say today?

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Alumni Spotlight: Nathalia Goes

 

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We recently had the chance to talk with Natalia Goes, a 2013 Technovation alumni and an active ambassador for Technovation Brazil. We wanted to hear about what she’s been up to since participating in the program in 2013, and what advice she has for young women interested in tech. 

Tell us about yourself!

Today I am a chemistry student at the hackday22largest university in Brasil (University od São Paulo) and I work in the operations of Technovation in Brazil. Technovation changed my life 3 years ago, so when I had the opportunity to give back and help change the life of the girls in Brasil I had to help! The program grew a lot in the past years and to be a part of this is a really intense learning experience in my life!
I’m really lucky to work with something that I’m passionate about!!

Since I participated in Technovation I started a few courses about coding, but I really focused in learning more about AppInventor, so today I can help not only the girls participating in Technovation but also anyone who wants to start learning how to code.

Who or what inspired you to pursue tech/Technovation? Who is your role model in tech?
Participating in Technovation in 2013 I met my mentor, who was a big inspiration (and help) during the competition, but still is a big inspiration in my life for everything she has done and for her story.

And in tech I’m really inspired by Sheryl Sandberg, for all her positioning as a strong woman and her struggle for women in tech and business carreirars.

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IBM hosts Technovation students from across the Bay Area for a day of innovation and technology

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On January 23rd, high school students flocked to the TechLAB Innovation Center for a day-long workshop for Technovation participants, sponsored by IBM. Students were treated to hands-on activities that explored the IBM Bluemix platform, which provides users with all the components necessary to build a functioning app in the Cloud.

The day started with a tutorial by JeanCarl Bisson, Technical Evangelist for IBM Cloud, on how to build an app that could test the temperature of a room and adjust a thermostat accordingly. Then, the students were challenged to think of their own app ideas and develop them using the Bluemix platform.

Students came with varying coding experience and were equally successful at developing ideas for their new apps. One group of students developed an idea for an app that alerts users if there is a fire in their home. Another group of girls identified the problem of keeping track of all their homework assignments. In order to address this problem, their app would not only keep a running list of the student’s assignments, but it would also alert the student each hour to give her an update on her progress. That way, the student would be able to stay on track and insure that all of her assignments are completed by the end of the night.

“The students amazed us with their innovative ideas. They were having fun and realizing that app design isn’t just for guys. If we can work with organizations like Technovation to get this message across to girls everywhere, it could go a long way in closing the gender gap,” said Kristina Vasquez, IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs

“Technovation is proud to partner with IBM to bring innovative technology to our participants,” said Allie Holmes, Events and Engagement Director at Technovation. “The skills developed at today’s workshop will help these students as they continue to develop their apps and navigate technology beyond the Technovation Challenge,”

Technovation’s registration is still open for the 2016 season, which takes place from February to April. Interested students and mentors can register at my.technovationchallenge.org.

Alumni Spotlight: Emma Yang

We recently had the chance to talk with Emma Yang, who was a 2015 finalist and as part of team AAT pitched the Concussion Checker app at World Pitch last summer. We caught up with Emma and talked about what inspires her, how code can be a superpower, and her advice for other girls in tech.

Emma-Yang-Technovation

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Emma Yang, I’m eleven years old and a seventh grader at The Brearley School in New York. I was born in Hong Kong and spent ten years there before moving to New York City in August 2014. I come from a family with a diverse background. My father was born in Beijing, China, my Mom grew up in Vietnam, my paternal grandparents were from Indonesia, and I travel to the US almost every 10 months to visit my maternal grandparents and have since I was 6 months old. Because of that I was exposed to multicultural traditions and customs and developed a love for many different cuisines. Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese Pho, Hainanese chicken rice, and lasagna were among my favorites.

My Dad is a Computer Scientist and my Mom is a Mathematician. One might think I might be a math or computer whiz right from the beginning because of this. Much to the contrary, when I was a young child, I was always more inclined toward literature and writing. I loved to read and write. When I was eight, my Dad introduced me to Scratch and I picked it up right away. After learning Scratch, I learned HTML and CSS to develop web pages, and Mindstorms NXT to program robots. It was almost like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, I suddenly felt that I could have a super power through coding, it was magical! I started to realize that coding can really change the world, whether it’s a tool, an education app or a health tracking device. All of them have the potential to change people’s lives.

We came across Technovation in the Winter of 2015. I always know that diversity is a problem and girls and women are still a minority in the tech world. I know through my own experience that ability is not a problem. It’s the stereotypical mindset that we need to change. It’s cool to be a “geek” and there is nothing wrong for girls to be “geeks”. Technovation gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that to the world. I know I have found something really special.

Who or what inspired you to pursue tech? Who is your role model in tech?

I was inspired to pursue tech by how the advancement of technology has the

IMG_0074
Emma at the 2015 GEMtech awards

potential to make a huge impact on the way we solve issues that we face now and in the future. I realized that something as simple as a faster way to evaluate concussions has the power to prevent people from getting seriously hurt and even save lives.

My role model in tech is my Dad, who has not only guided me through the process of learning how to code, and also the discipline needed. During Technovation, I faced many challenges. One of them was I had to learn how to code the entire app using MIT App Inventor by myself, having very limited knowledge in programming mobile applications. This pushed me to further pursue tech by learning how to code in Java and Swift. My favorite programming language is Swift, a new language from Apple for developing iOS apps. Swift not only combines a lot of good characteristics from different popular languages and also some new powerful features.

What advice would you give to young women interested in going into tech?

For other young women interested in going into technology, I would tell them to never stop trying. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to pursue it, even if people keep telling you that it is hard and impossible. If this is what you like, don’t make up excuses for not trying, because there are always opportunities out there.

Speaking of opportunities, I would strongly suggest girls who are interested in coding to participate in Technovation. Not only will you get the invaluable end-to-end “start-up like” experience of ideation, coding, business plan development, and pitching, but equally importantly you will be able to connect with other girls of the same interest and ambition in your school, city, country, and even the world! You will find out that there are so many of “us” out there, so many people are around to support you, and it is just so cool to be a “geek”!

Girls Using Technology to Solve Important Community Problems Girls Make Apps with Salesforce

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At 9:00am on Saturday, January 16th, while many girls were probably just getting out of bed, more than 40 dedicated and enthusiastic young women flocked to Salesforce in San Francisco. The middle school and high school students spent five hours working alongside Salesforce volunteers to learn the basics of
App Inventor, a block-based coding program. The young women also began brainstorming potential problems in their communities that could be addressed through a mobile app solution. 

These girls are all participating in the Technovation Challenge, a global technology entrepreneurship program for young women. Through a 12-week curriculum, teams of girls (age 10 to 18) work together with professional mentors to imagine, design, and develop a mobile app and business plan to address a need within their community, then pitch their “startup” business to judges. The top ten Technovation teams from around the world are invited to Silicon Valley to pitch their apps live to a panel of judges for the chance to win $10,000 in seed funding.

As a part of Salesforce’s 1-1-1 model, Technovation was treated to a wonderful space, passionate volunteers, and a delicious lunch (and snacks!) to make this day possible for the participants.

At the workshop, girls were treated to an overview of App Inventor by David Wolber, a computer science professor at USF and a member of the MIT App Inventor Board of Advisors. Professor Wolber taught the basic components needed to build a successful app with App Inventor — a block based coding program that’s easy for beginners to catch onto quickly yet robust enough for experts to use to build complex applications. Then, the girls were taught how to make their very own Raffle App, which collected phone numbers via text message and called a random winning number. The girls had the opportunity to explore App Inventor and the Raffle App further by building out their own features. Professor Wolber took the time to answer specific questions from the girls in order to help them debug their own apps!

Following a delicious lunch generously donated by Andrea Leszek’s team, the girls were treated to a panel of engaging female technology professionals, including Salesforce’s own Lead Software Engineer, Stephanie Ortiz, and Senior Director, Global Events, Joan Yanabu. The panel shared information about their roles as tech entrepreneurs, researchers, and engagement managers. They talked about the skills that helped them be successful in their roles, such as collaboration, risk taking, patience with themselves, accepting failure, and being open-minded. The panelists touched on how their major in college related to their career today. Many discussed how their college major did not necessarily define their career. College was more of a time of finding their voice, finding a great mentor, and joining a collegiate team that helped prepare them for success later in life.

The afternoon was chock-full of brainstorming community problems, like coping with the drought, helping people with financial problems, and keeping pedestrians safe. The problem identification led to some impressive potential mobile application solutions, which each team presented to the audience at the end of the day. One team is planning a mobile app that would use sensors to tell pedestrians how fast a car or moving object was heading towards them to warn them of the danger. It would also report an incident to police or 911.

When asked what they thought of the day, one student responded, “Everything went really well! I was excited prior to the event and it exceeded my expectations.”

Another student simply exclaimed, “LOVED IT!”

In addition to this workshop, Salesforce supports Technovation in a number of ways, both financially and through volunteer support. Salesforce supported Technovation in piloting a Mentor Training Program with 35 Salesforce volunteers this November and December. The feedback received from Salesforce employees led to key improvements to the training. In the end, more than 500 Technovation mentors and coaches registered to take part in the online training webinar series in January and are now set-up for success in leading Technovation teams this season. Over the past two years, 16 Salesforce judges and 27 mentors have volunteered to support Technovation. Salesforce is also funding Technovation’s expansion into Toronto. Thanks to their support Toronto has 49 students, 7 mentors and 4 coaches participating in Technovation in 2016.

 

Save the date for Technovation’s World Pitch Event on July 13th and 14th, where you will have the chance to hear from Technovation teams from around the world as they pitch their apps live to a panel of judges!

 

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about Technovation, please complete this brief form and someone from the Technovation team will be in touch.