Technovation Challenge Helps Girls Around the World Become Tech Entrepreneurs

Wondering who’ll develop the next big technology to change the world? We have a hunch that we’ve just met her. For the past two years, we have partnered with Iridescent, the STEM nonprofit running Technovation Challenge, which invites young women, ages 10-18, to identify problems in their communities and create mobile apps to help. Of the 3,000 projects submitted from around the world this year, only 12 were selected for the final competition, World Pitch Summit. We’re thrilled that two of the groups we mentored are headed into the finals: Team Ingenious APSN, whose app, PregCare, helps educate women about prenatal care; and 9 bits, who developed Wishcraft to allow donors to help children in need.

Shashank Jain, software engineer for Adobe and mentor for Team Ingenious APSN, told us what it was like to lend his talents to first-time entrepreneurs as they brainstormed and developed their app. “There were so many moments that amazed me. The dedication and spark in each one of the girls to do their work quickly and skillfully was fabulous. From the start, they were ready with market research and feedback from their community, and they aggressively solved every problem they came across.”

Inspiring a Generation of Girls Toward Tech and Problem Solving

Girls in the Technovation Challenge work in teams, with the help of mentors from the tech industry, on every step of the innovation process. They identify problems, develop mobile app solutions using an MIT platform, App Inventor, that teaches them how to code, draw up business plans, and create pitches for their products. Finalists are awarded scholarships and the opportunity to attend the World Pitch Summit in Silicon Valley.

Team Ingenious ASPN

Since the Challenge launched in 2009, 15,000 girls have participated from more the 100 countries and over 2,300 mobile apps have been created. And the program has had a big impact: 58 percent of alumnae enroll in a further computer science course, and 26 percent go on to major in computer science in college.

Keeping Pregnant Women Healthy

Team Ingenious APSN—five girls, ages 15 to 17—are schoolmates in Noida, India. Two are aspiring artists – one loves to cook, and one loves basketball. But when they put their heads together, they realized that they wanted to help women have healthier pregnancies. As one of them explained, “My journey started when I saw rickshaw pullers and maids use smartphones. In that instance, I realized that smartphones have the power to bind every section of our society together.” As the team considered the problem of high rates of infant mortality and post-pregnancy deaths in developing countries, the girls thought an app could be the perfect way to help mothers-to-be.

To prepare, the team surveyed their community to find out what information women need about pregnancy, and they worked with a local organization that helps pregnant women with nutrition, vaccinations and doctor visits. From there, they began developing PregCare, an app loaded with information for a healthy pregnancy. Shashank, the team’s mentor, helped the girls develop a solid plan and a timeline, and offered guidance on working with UIs, databases and coding challenges.

“With time, Technovation became so much more than a competition,” the team told us. “We started enjoying it so much that we used to do coding or structure our business planning or editing our pitch during our free time. It became our favorite hobby.”

Team 9 Bits

As the team prepares for their trip to World Pitch Summit, they’re eager to meet their international colleagues: “We are not only gearing up to compete against the other teams, but we envision cooperating to learn and collaborate with our sisters from all over the world.”

Helping Fulfill Wishes for Children in Need

When 9 bits—three close friends who are high school seniors in Bengaluru, India—brainstormed ideas for the Technovation Challenge, they were inspired by their school’s regular newspaper drives, which help raise money for charitable organizations. “This year we decided to donate sports supplies to government schools on the outskirts of Bangalore,” the team explained. “We saw how happy those kids were with just one football and cricket bat even though they would have to share it with the whole school. Things like toys are something we’ve always taken for granted.” With this in mind, the girls decided to develop Wishcraft, an app that enables users to fulfill the wishes of children in need. NGOs can use the app to make requests for the children they serve, and donors can fulfill the wishes by giving money for items on the wish list.

Abhishek Maheshwari, MTS, software development at Adobe and mentor for 9 bits, helped the girls refine their idea and break down the project into manageable tasks and timelines. “The kind of ideas they came up with blew me away,” said Abhishek. “When I was their age, I could not even imagine building a full-fledged product like this. It was the best feeling to see these girls getting comfortable with and embracing technology.”

When it came to the Challenge, the team was especially inspired by the opportunity to join other young women in the competition: “Most coding and hackathon events are male dominated, and it’s difficult for us women to join. We felt that this was a unique opportunity to raise our voice,” they told us.

Welcome to Silicon Valley

We’re looking forward to welcoming 9 bits, Team Ingenious APSN and all of the finalists to Silicon Valley later this month. We wish them the best of luck at the World Pitch Summit, and we can’t wait to see the amazing things they develop next.

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