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.
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
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”!