On the first Friday in May, Microsoft was packed with girls. Yes, GIRLS! The 10th floor was filled to capacity with young women interested in technology and proud to show off the amazing apps they developed for a national competition called Technovation. I was honored serve among a truly stellar panel of judges: Julia Austin (formerly Akamai), Kara Shurmantine (MassChallenge), Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom, (formerly Harmonix) and Pamela Aldsworth (Silicon Valley Bank).
Rachel Nicoll of Mass Tech Leadership Council’s Education Foundation shared that some of our finalists will be heading to California to pitch in the Technovation Finals for the chance to win $10,000! She sat down to answer a few questions about Technovation and the interview is included below.
Share Technovation with a young woman you know today!
- What is Technovation?
Technovation is an international program that teaches mobile app development, entrepreneurship, and community engagement. High school and middle school female students work in teams of up to 5 to develop mobile apps to solve a problem in their local community. Teams work with a classroom teacher or coach at their school and a female mentor/role model as project manager from the technology or related industry. The program is free and open to all girls age 10-18 with any level of experience (“beginners welcome”).
- What kind of participation did we see from Massachusetts?
There were 40 teams from 18 schools signed up at the start of the season; 28 teams finished. A bit of attrition is normal, but the numerous blizzards and school closings really hit the teams hard. We are looking at ways to address the Technovation schedule and get the students in “Technovation-mode” earlier so this is less of an issue in the future. Let’s get 40 to finish next year!
- Tell us about the apps that won the MA regional competition.
Five teams – 4 high school and 1 middle school – from the Massachusetts Regional Showcase progressed to the Semifinal round. There are 18 teams representing US/Canada at the high school level – our 4 Massachusetts teams represent almost 1/4 of that region!
AMEKA (Winchester High School) addresses the issue of impaired driving via their Safe Guard Driving app. Through a series of tests, users can ascertain whether or not their vision, reaction times, balance & cognitive ability are impaired or not. In the future, the app has the potential to be connected to ignition interlock technologies if partnered with an automobile company.
Seventh (Phillips Academy) created The Pack: Safety in Numbers, a comprehensive safety app intended for teenagers and young adults that addresses the problems of sexual assault, hazing, and substance abuse in unfamiliar situations. The Pack is an expanded, digitized version of the time tested buddy system, including a friend-compass and check-in code among its features.
Techtonic’s (Winchester High School) application, ENKI, is intended to serve as a bridge between members of the school community. Teachers are able to post assignments, students are able to communicate with their peers and advisors, users can interact with teachers and classmates using the messaging capabilities, and all users receive automatic updates. Students are able to interact with their peers as well as interact with their teachers in a scholastic environment. The academic atmosphere of ENKI ensures that these communications will solely be scholarly.
WoCo (Phillips Academy) designed PraisePop as an interactive, social, and positive way to engage with the community. Too often people feel alone, excluded and unacknowledged due to negativity; PraisePop counteracts this by providing a method to spread positivity and inclusivity in communities by anonymously sharing uplifting posts.
Appily Ever After (Blake Middle School) created OpportuniTeens to connect non-profit organizations with teen volunteers. Using this app, teens can fulfill volunteer opportunities within local communities, organizations have a place to spread the word about these opportunities, and high school students can acquire community service hours to graduate.
- What’s next for the Technovation competitors?
Two of the MA semifinalists, AMEKA and WoCo, have been selected for the World Pitch Event in San Francisco on June 24th. They will pitch their apps live in front of a panel of judges at Yelp’s headquarters, competing against 4 other teams in the high school division for the top prize of $10,000.
Last year’s regional winning team, SKARA, competed in the Boston TechJam Pitch Contest and came in 2nd. They got a lot of great exposure and Constant Contact’s Small Business Innoloft hosted them over the summer to continue to work on their app. I wouldn’t be surprised if a Technovation team or two pop up on the roster for this year’s TechJam Pitch.