200 girls learning how to program mobile apps – in a 2500 year old Indian city

By Tara Chklovski

Over the past few years, Iridescent has been growing and I don’t have as much contact with participants as I did before. I miss that fuel.  But thankfully, every few weeks, some stories of people come through – that just make me stop and stare in amazement. Like this one.

Senthil Kumar is an engineer at Qualcomm in Bangalore. His sister, Mani Mala, is an educator in Madurai, one of the oldest cities in the world (actually 2500 years old). They learned about Technovation and took it upon themselves to bring Technovation to the young women of Madurai.  The logistics of this undertaking are what make this story of grit so inspiring. It really brings perspective to first-world petty griping!

Some background on Madurai. It is famous primarily for its old, old, old, beautiful temples. People grow rubber and the city is known for its cultural traditions.

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That is from a tourist’s point of view. But what about its youth? They aspire just as young people all over the world. And that is the story of Senthil. I did a quick interview with him trying to understand how he became so driven and motivated. Listen and be inspired!

That is from a tourist’s point of view. But what about its youth? They aspire to succeed just as young people all over the world do. And that is the story of Senthil. I did a quick interview with him trying to understand how he became so driven and motivated. Listen and be inspired!

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Senthil and Mani Mala wanted to provide more opportunities to the young women in Madurai and recruited more than 200 women from two local universities to meet on the weekends and work through the Technovation curriculum.

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They don’t have internet, but that doesn’t stop them!

Senthil takes the night bus every Friday night from Bangalore (a 10 hour bus journey), reaches Madurai on Saturday morning. Teaches the girls. They work around the internet issue using an offline version of App Inventor. Senthil downloads the girl’s code on flash drives. He does the 10 hour night journey on Sunday night and goes straight to work on Monday.

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He has been doing this for weeks. (The Technovation program lasts 12 weeks).

Their biggest need right now is for mentors who can help ease the load on Senthil and Mani and support the young women towards completion of their apps and business plans.

Imagine if these young women came to Silicon Valley to present their technology solutions for a better world!

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(This article was cross-posted on Iridescent’s blog as well as the Huffington Post)

 

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Tara Chklovski is the founder and CEO of Iridescent and has previously worked as the principal at a 300 student K-6 school in India and her love for science as well as art is reflected in Iridescent’s mission to share the beautiful side of science. She has an undergraduate degree in Physics, a M.S in Aerospace Engineering, and is part-time faculty at the Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering Department at USC.

Iridescent is a 501c3 non-profit that helps scientists, engineers and technology professionals share their passion with children from underrepresented groups. Technovation is one of Iridescent’s numerous programs established to achieve this aim.