A journey with Technovation Challenge finalists

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At the beginning of the year, Tasktop partnered up with local high school girls to join the ‘Technovation Challenge’. Technovation, a flagship program run by non-profit Iridescent, is the world’s largest global tech entrepreneurship competition for girls. One of the teams we worked with went on to become a finalist, winning $5000 scholarship money to further their interest in STEM, and the opportunity to network with tech companies in Silicon Valley.

The program offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. Every year, Technovation challenges girls between the ages of 8 and 10 to identify a problem in their community, and to solve the issue through a business plan and app. The girls work closely in teams with the help from mentors to complete a 12-week curriculum.

We had our kickoff event hosted at Tasktop at the end of January and roughly 23 high school students attended with their parents. There were nine volunteers from Tasktop and about seven teams were formed. It was an afternoon of fun learning and small group discussions to brainstorm project ideas.

Tasktop’s Étienne Hossack welcoming students at Tasktop’s HQ in Vancouver

I supported three Grade 8 girls – Carol, Suzanna and Carina – forming a team called ‘3 Big Tomatoes’. The girls were elementary school friends who attend different high schools. Technovation Challenge helped to bring them back together to work on something potentially impactful.

The “3 Big Tomatoes” and their mentor, Vivian Lau! (From left to right – Carina, Suzanna, Carol, Vivian)

This year’s challenge was focused on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals: poverty, the environment, peace, equality, education, and health. Every team is required to identify a problem falling into at least one of those categories, and to attempt to solve that problem through technology. After a lively brainstorming session, we finally picked ‘Environment and Education’ as the theme for our app.

Introducing ZeroWaste

We called the app “ZeroWaste”, which users to recognize different types of waste in their home and how to recycle or reuse them properly. It provides pictures, videos and games to help people, especially children and newcomers with language barriers, to understand local waste collection rules.

It was a great pleasure to work with a parent sponsor, Ping, who is Carol’s mom. Ping and I worked closely together to provide space and time for the girls to work on the projects together, who met every week to work on the project. As a mentor, I met up with the girls for a few meetings to provide feedback and technical help on their app, documentation and the final pitch.

Within the 12 weeks, the girls had carried out market research, conducted interviews, created prototypes, learned how to code the Android app through AppInventor, and created a business plan and pitch for their app. Twelve weeks passed by very quickly and I am amazed at how much the girls have done in such a short amount of time.

The pitch video and the demo of the app can be viewed here:

Pitch Video

App demo

After several rounds of judging around the world, the “3 Big Tomatoes” became one of the six finalists of the Junior Division AND was the only group representing Canada(!). We were so excited to learn that the girls got the chance to attend the World Pitch Summit in Silicon Valley for a week to meet other teams and other women in tech to pitch their ideas.

The girls also had the opportunity to visit local companies, network with current employees, and learn more about what a career in tech might mean for them. In addition, as part of the Junior Division Finalist, the girls won $5,000 (USD) scholarship to encourage them to further education or interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related fields or development of the app and bring it to market.

I am very proud of my team for their huge accomplishment, and must also single out the parents for their incredible support!

Technovation Challenge is starting again in 2018, and we are looking forward to helping more students to progress their passion for tech – I encourage all of you to consider joining the challenge!

For more information about Technovation Challenge, please the website – www.technovationchallenge.org – to support volunteering initiatives in our local communities and women in technology.

Tasktop also started a Tasktop Community Volunteering Program. Employees are entitled to have some paid time off hours to attend volunteering events. I am very glad that I joined a company that is so committed to the community and I hope that through these small acts of volunteering more young children would be interested in using technology to make the world better.

 

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