Today is International Day of the Girl! Introduced by the United Nations in 2012, this is a day to celebrate and promote the betterment of girls’ position in society around the world.
We’re celebrating girls everywhere for their curiosity, creativity, and unapologetic pursuit of change for themselves and their communities. We are especially proud of the 2018 Gold Scholarship Winners, who are using technology to clean up their community and reduce air and water pollution.
Meet Team Cantavits, a team of five girls from India who developed Eedo, an app to help people properly dispose of electronic waste. Hear more in their recent interview with Good Morning America:
Get ready to be inspired! In addition to the 12 finalist teams who attend World Pitch, each year a number of teams fundraise for themselves to cover their costs of attendance to World Pitch as visiting teams. Visiting teams also attend field trips to technology companies in the Bay Area and get to meet and brainstorm with their peers on the finalist teams. These motivated young women will also be present at the Global Innovation Celebration, and are eligible to receive the People’s Choice Award. Get to know these teams, the problems they care about, and how they want to solve them.
Meet Amina! Amina is a Student Ambassador from Kenya, who participated in Technovation in 2015 and helped strengthen the program in Kenya this year. Amina did not have trouble recruiting girls, noting that Technovation has been running in Kenya for about 6 years now, and that coaches and mentors have created interest in the local community and have engaged schools, which makes the task of recruiting teams much easier. In fact, the Mombasa chapter grew from 10 teams last year to 16 teams this year!
Amina worked closely with 3 of those teams, recruiting and supporting 15 girls during the season. While recruiting girls was fairly straightforward due to the existing local Technovation community, the realities of working through an online curriculum on a different school-year calendar proved to be challenging. Kenya’s school year is different from the US school year, starting in January and running through October, which made the January start of Technovation difficult to navigate. Additionally, Amina and her students struggled with their limited access to internet and laptop computers. This tied into another challenge, which is that many people who do have laptops and internet access in the area are mostly college students who tend to over-schedule themselves and committed to mentoring for Technovation but dropped out mid-way through the season. Amina and the mentors and coaches who did remain stepped up to support all of the girls through the season, but the loss of mentors did put additional strain on them.
Amina and her chapter also faced some cultural barriers, including parents who weren’t comfortable with having their daughters in school on the weekends, and the school allowing only 2 hours of time a week to work on the their Technovation projects. Amina worked to schedule time on the weekends for those girls whose parents were comfortable with them returning to school then, and while many teams only had half of their members available, Amina supported the girls and provided structure for their work time. Despite all of these challenges, Amina loved being a Student Ambassador and becoming a teach and mentor for so many girls. (more…)
Meet Slava! Slava is a Student Ambassador from Canada, where she recruited 50 girls to participate in the program this season. Slava did not have much trouble recruiting girls this year, citing schools’ access to internet and laptops as well as an increase in science and technology courses as potential reasons for this interest, as well as the novelty of the program in her area. In particular, Slava is proud of the number of junior teams she recruited and their engagement and interest in the program.
While recruitment wasn’t an issue, many of the girls Slava was supporting faced challenges with time management and allocating enough time to complete their submissions within their busy after school schedules. Slava helped manage this by scheduling times to meet on the weekends or using online calls to support teams who couldn’t make it in person. Despite these challenges, Slava enjoyed being a Student Ambassador, and seeing the effect of the program on the girls we was working with.
“I knew that I was doing something that was helping other people, especially encouraging young girls to keep doing what interests them most. I learned about how big of a positive impact we can make when we all come together to work as a community.”
We heard more about this community in Slava’s final report, when she told us about witnessing girls who were new to technology develop an interest in the subject, discuss pursuing tech-focused careers, and tell her they wanted to teach their own friends and peers about the tech field. We also learned about the teachers Slava worked with and how they have introduced the Technovation challenge to other teachers from other school boards all over their area. Slava is moving on to University next year, where she is planning to study mechanics and mechatronics engineering.
We know that the community she helped foster this year will remain continue to grow – and that Slava will continue to be a leader for girls and women in STEM. “I will continue to work towards my goal of becoming an engineer, but I also wish to keep supporting other young women around me and showing them that they don’t have to be afraid to be involved in STEM too.”
Meet Isabel! Isabel is a Student Ambassador in Spain who was inspired to join the Student Ambassador program because she noticed that there was almost no encouragement for girls to learn how to program in her community, and she wanted to lead the change to share the power of technology with local girls. Isabel is also an active member of HeforShe, an initiative of UN Women, and draws a great deal of inspiration from Emma Watson’s questions of “if not me, who? If not now, when?”
In addition to supporting and inspiring girls and women in her community, Isabel is also passionate about Judo, and won a Spanish bronze medal in the sport this year.
Isabel had great success as a Student Ambassador this year, recruiting and supporting 90 girls to complete the program this year. Isabel attributes this success to having access to talk to the girls – Isabel spoke at the kickoff event in Madrid this year, made presentations at local schools (in person and over skype), and took care to provide mid-season support to girls working at those schools, as well as virtual support to girls participating in the program in Valencia. Isabel was also one of our social media influencers, who took over the Technovation Instagram account to share out some of the stories of girls participating in Spain and offer encouragement to girls around the work.
Isabel told us that “being a Student Ambassador was the best thing I did through this year. I really felt that the work I was doing was truly helping others” and that “the best thing about doing this is when you see the girls faces all lighted up because they are excited about the learning they are doing.” Isabel also told us that helping the girls through the program showed her how much she actually knows and helped her feel more confident about her programming, leadership, and public speaking skills.
Meet Teodora! Teodora is a Student Ambassador in Romania. Teodora participated in Technovation in 2017 after learning about the program accidentally, and after participating, sought out the opportunity to become a Student Ambassador so that she could tell more girls in her town about the program. Teodora also told us that while there wasn’t much visibility in her region she was ready and eager to help build a Technovation community in Romania.
Over the past season we saw this resolve time and again in Teodora’s efforts as Student Ambassador. Although she faced challenges in finding girls who believed they could take on the challenge as rigorous as Technovation, Teodora recruited and retained 15 girls (who formed 3 teams) this season.
Teodora told us that the hardest part of her season was finding “more innovative ways to attract the girl’s interest and attention” to Technovation, but that she overcame it by thinking creatively and using face-to-face meetings as well as leveraging social media.
Teodora also helped organize the Regional Pitch Event in her area, even partnering with the Adfaber.org to help bring the event to life. In addition to developing her organizational and leadership skills, putting on the Regional Pitch event with help from Adfaber.org meant that Teodora also had the opportunity to learn more about digital marketing and connect with women working in the tech field.
We are so proud to work alongside Teodora and have her as a leader in our community!
“I’m going to change the world by using my knowledge to build an environment conducive to the development of true values and unity between cultures.”
Meet Meriam! Meriam is a Student Ambassador in Tunisia. Meriam was already a very engaged member of her local community before becoming a Student Ambassador, and the skills and connections she developed through her community engagement were important tools for her this season. In 2016, Meriam participated in TechGirls, a summer program in Washington, DC for girls interested in STEM that also required Meriam to host information sessions when she returned to Tunisia. These information sessions helped Meriam develop her network further and reach more girls. Her connection to TechGirls also provides her access to the American corner (the US Embassy’s cultural center in her city), which provides her chapter with a place to meet for information sessions, workshops, and group discussions. Meriam also started a new Technovation club in her school and hopes to expand it further next year.
Of course starting a new club and recruiting and supporting 20 girls during the Technovation season didn’t come without challenges. Meriam found that girls struggled with finding time to work on Technovation around their busy schedules, as well as committing to such a rigorous project. Meriam also noted that many of the girls she worked with were hesitant to try coding, but with additional encouragement from her they were able to face their fears and tackle the challenge. Overall Meriam greatly enjoyed being a Student Ambassador this year, despite these challenges. “Being a student ambassador was the highlight of my school life and technovation participation. I LOVED the interaction with the young girls full of energy and inspiration which pushed me to do my best in sharing my knowledge with them and building a stronger local community of girls for a change.”
Meet Daria! Daria (also known as Dasha) is a Student Ambassador from Ukraine. Although Daria faced a number of challenges in getting girls interested in the program and noted a general lack of engagement from the young people in her community, she ultimately persevered to recruit 20 girls to participate in the program this season. Daria also worked closely with her Regional Ambassador, Nadiia to host online learning sessions and coordinate events and webinars for the girls. All of her hard work paid off at the end of the season when 30 teams attended the Regional Pitch Event – twice the number of teams who attended in 2017.
We asked Daria what she had learned as a Student Ambassador this year, and she was very honest, telling us that she learned how difficult it can be to become a leader and that she learned that “you must be really keen on your work to be a leader. You should have a strong belief in what you do” but also that a leader “is the one who creates other leaders.”
It was so rewarding to see Daria step into her role as a community leader this year, and we’ve been so proud to work alongside her in Ukraine to bring Technovation to more girls.
Meet Sabrina! Sabrina is a Student Ambassador in Uganda who participated in Technovation in 2017 as part of a team called 3 Girls Making it Up. During that season, Sabrina’s teammates grew discouraged and wanted to quit, but Sabrina convinced them to keep trying and ultimately submit their app.
We saw that perseverance again this year, as Sabrina worked to recruit over 160 girls this season and support them through the immense challenge of not having reliable internet access. Sabrina was also determined to reach as many girls as she could, walking miles to schools in remote areas to introduce Technovation.
Fortunately the schools in her region were accepting of the program and the girls loved Technovation. Sabrina also worked closely with a new Regional Ambassador this year and together they worked to put on a regional pitch event and supported the teams during submission when they faced problems with their internet access.
Throughout the year we have seen that Sabrina is a problem solver and a force of positivity. Earlier this year she told us “when I applied to be a Student Ambassador, one of my friends pointed out that it would be hard to fulfill my duties as I don’t have a phone or a computer and my school doesn’t have internet access. Everything she said was true, but so what? I am a changemaker, and I will not give up no matter what.“
Meet Amira! Amira is a Student Ambassador from Pittsburgh, where she attends a science and technology focused school. However, Amira’s interests extend beyond just STEM and range from Computer Science to photography to communications to robotics.
In her introduction at the start of the season, Amira told us that three things she likes are “Ariana Grande, Computer Science, and Dance” and that she wants to attend Carnegie Mellon University or the University of Pittsburgh to study Software and Bio Engineering. “I want to be a software engineer at Google and have my own business that helps teens with their self-acknowledgement, called E.S.T.E.E.M.”