We recently had the chance to catch up with Briana Berger, who participated in Technovation in 2016 and was named a semi-finalist for her app SleepBeep. Read on to hear about her early experiences with technology, the challenges she’s faced in tech, and her advice to young women who are interested in technology and entrepreneurship.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Briana Berger. I’m a seventeen year-old Technovation Alumni from Gainesville, FL. I love to understand the ins and outs of everything. I always ask questions, and I think that my love for code grew out of that. It also probably explains why my toddler-self “researched” why baked cookies taste good by eating the cookie dough. As my yearning to learn grew, I have become a leader in my community for events and in coding.
I founded my own non-profit called SeniorTechNet to encourage seniors to use technology and some I have even taught to code. I also founded a club at my school called coderGirls, where I teach Python and we compete in Verizon’s Innovation Challenge. Under the club, I have created coderKids, a community outreach, to teach young kids to code, and I founded the yearly Florida Hackathons for Floridian high school students to innovate and learn. (Ed note: since we talked to Briana, coderGirls has launched as a national nonprofit organization!)
As of now, the programming languages that I know are Java, Python, Swift, HTML5, CSS3, ROBOTC, Scratch, MITAppInventor, and Snap.
Furthermore, my app, SleepBeep, won Technovation’s Worldwide Coding Competition as a Semifinalist in 2016. I’m also my school’s Robotics President, where I have organized fundraisers and I’m in the works of getting sponsorships for NASA, BestBuy, and etc. Besides being a Girls Who Code alumni, I’m also a Stanford she++ #include fellow, where fellows are encouraged to make a change in their community’s coding hemisphere by getting minorities to join computer science.
Yet, I don’t just code. I’m a part of Speech and Debate where I compete in Original Oratory and Oral Interpretation, and I’m our team’s secretary. I love to create and edit videos as I am a youtuber with over one thousand subscribers and 25,000 views. I also have a love in writing, whether in blogs, at home, or for school. In addition, I have recently, after seven years, earned my second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
What was your first experience with technology and/or coding?
My first experience with technology was when I received a toy pink computer for my sixth birthday. It was my gateway into using technology. Throughout elementary school, I played the stereotypical children online games. However, I always have had the yearning to understand the ins and outs of a concept. It also probably explains why my toddler-self “researched” into why baked cookies taste good by eating the cookie dough. So, during my entrance to middle school, I learned how to code with HTML and that is where my coding love began.
What is a challenge you’ve faced, related to Technovation, or any of your other coding experiences? How did you overcome that challenge?
I created an app called SleepBeep, which became a semifinalist in Technovation’s 2016 competition. SleepBeep helps drivers with fatigue. A driver fatigue test determines if an individual is too tired to keep driving. If a user receives a bad score, an alarm will beep every fifteen minutes to help keep the driver awake until finding a place to rest. Also, SleepBeep provides users a list of locations and facilities nearby that can be used. A difficulty that I faced in programming was totaling up the user’s inputs to determine their score. First off, I had to research what range would be considered too tired and the weight each question would have. So, some answers can affect the person’s score more than others due to how dangerous that choice can be. Then, I had to implement that into code. I decided on having the quiz be similar to golf. The higher you score in points, the worse your resulting score would be. This allowed me to do “if and else” statements to determine what scores would be considered too tired and then the fifteen- minute interval alarm would go off.
What advice would you have for someone who was interested in starting Technovation or another coding program but felt intimidated or like they “weren’t a coder”?
Go for it. Everybody can be a coder. It doesn’t matter your age, gender, or race. For myself, being a female minority is not unusual for me: I have a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I like math, I like science, and I like to code. I even have founded a non-profit called SeniorTechNet to help teach senior citizens how to utilize technology to its fullest potential. Then, some of the seniors I have taught to code. So, no matter who you are, you can code. Maybe you’ll even be the next Albert Einstein of code.