Student Ambassador Spotlight: Amira J.

Amira J., Technovation Student Ambassador 2017-2018
Amira J., Student Ambassador 2017-2018

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.”

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12 Teams Advance to Technovation World Pitch August 6-10 in San Jose, Calif.

Girls from 12 teams were given the happy news last Tuesday that their team’s submission advanced to the finals and that they will be flown to Silicon Valley for Technovation’s World Pitch event, a week of networking, field trips, workshops, and the chance to win between $5,000 – $15,000 in scholarships. Technovation offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders.

“I imagine a world where young women can pursue any career without fear of being oppressed or looked down upon,” Eesha, Team FemStem, California

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Alumni Spotlight: Sakshi Agarwal

Meet Sakshi Agarwal, who participated in Technovation in 2015! Sakshi is 16 years old and lives in Bangalore, India, where she goes above and beyond supporting students participating in Technovation in rural areas.

Inspired by Technovation Challenge and how it affected her sister during the 2016 season, Sakshi began mentoring students alongside Dhana, her local regional ambassador. Over the last 2 years she has helped mentor over 100+ girls as they participated in Technovation, supporting them and encouraging them to consider career paths in STEM fields.

Sakshi is launching her own app-based startup that tackles food waste, and has been selected to present her app at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, India. She is also interning at Headstart Network Foundation, India’s largest startup community and is launching an initiative to provide mentorship and networking opportunities for student entrepreneurs in India.

Saskshi is an aspiring change-maker and tech-enthusiast who hails entrepreneurship. Her mission is to change the outlook of girls towards STEM fields and to fight illiteracy.

She says that she was just a normal girl following the crowd and doing her homework regularly, until she heard about Technovation. She “blames” Technovation for all the good that has happened to her since 2016 and has changed her outlook and mission in life.

An enormous thank you from the Technovation community for Sakshi’s incredible hard work and her commitment to helping make it girls for a change.

Technovation App Submissions grow by 60% in 1 year

What started as a vision has a become a movement and this movement is now growing strong roots.

2018 is a very special year for Iridescent. We are strengthening our core pillars and making advances into new frontiers. From witnessing close to 20,000 girls register for Technovation from across 115 countries to launching our AI Family Challenge, Iridescent continues to inspire and be inspired!

Today we are celebrating our 2,000  innovative app solutions created by Technovation participants for this year’s competition. In just one year Technovation submissions have soared by 60% making this the most successful year in our program’s history. This success reflects the continued need for such experiential learning programs and focused support to young girls. What started as a pilot with 24 girls in Silicon Valley is now a global program reaching thousands of girls each year. Our global reach is evident by the amazing growth of our cohort in Spain – from 50 submitted apps in 2017 to 254 in 2018.

This movement would not been possible without the support of Technovation Alliance partners including Adobe Foundation, Salesforce.org, Uber, Google.org and numerous other supporters. It took an army of 100+ regional ambassadors and partner organizations, 5,000 mentors, 74 student ambassadors and thousands of parents and families. The commitment and involvement of our entire community is the driving force of this movement. As we continue to scale, we will rely more and more on the community to make a deeper impact.

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Open Letter to Technovation 2018 Students

As the 2018 Technovation submission deadline approaches, we wanted to share some warm words of encouragement from Kathy Martinez, a Technovation Student Ambassador from Chicago, IL who wrote this open letter to students currently participating in the program.

Technovation Student Ambassador Kathy Martinez

Hi girls,

The Technovation season is nearing its end, but hopefully the friendships you made and the lessons you learned will last for many years to come.

I’ve had the privilege of working with groups of very passionate and determined girls during the duration of Technovation so far, and I am very excited to see what teams have accomplished throughout the season.

I believe every girl deserves a chance to change their communities for the better, and I am so happy to see so many girls participating in Technovation this year because I strongly believe it provides that chance. Every one of you is contributing to a better future for yourselves and for the communities around you. You are providing a voice and empowering individuals that are in need, and along the way you have become a stronger person and acquired invaluable life skills.

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Student Ambassador Spotlight: Sabrina Atwiine

Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Atwiine Sabrina and I am 18 years old. I am from Uganda in the Kabale district and a 2017/18 Student Ambassador.  I participated in Technovation in 2017 as part of a team called 3 Girls Making it Up. It was not until one of my school’s alumni came to my school that I got introduced to Technovation. She lived in the city and went to multiple Technovation events and thought it would be a good thing for her old school to participate.

 

What was one challenge you faced when you participated in Technovation. How did you overcome it?

2017 being the first year I participated, I knew nothing about technology but I had the passion to learn. Therefore, not knowing anything couldn’t bring me down. I knew what I wanted!  Also, in my community, no one was interested in technology and they considered it a boy’s thing, which was a big challenge, but I was determined.

I was on a team of three and none of us had heard of, or used, MIT App Inventor before and that was challenging as well.  My teammates almost gave up, but I persuaded them to keep going. I suggested to first focus on the paper prototyping and then try MIT app inventor.

 

How did you overcome the challenge of being unfamiliar with MIT App Inventor?

I dedicated a lot of time trying out the different MIT App Inventor features to understand how they worked and what they could do. I used tutorials to teach myself how to use it. Everytime I learned something new through a tutorial, I would immediately try it out to see how it worked. It was hard but fun at the same time. We played with every feature in MIT App Inventor until we got what we wanted. We developed an app called Harmonious –  it was meant to enhance peace and harmony in our community.  

 

What would be your advice to girls facing the same challenge?

  • Self-confidence: To be successful [..], you have to be motivated. Do you believe you can make it? “Yes I can’’ is what I told myself and it kept me going through the whole season.
  • Passion: Do you love what you are doing? I developed a real passion for my project and I wanted to make it the best, which made me want to learn even more about coding.
  • Learn to try and discover: You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things. Before you try something new, it will always seem harder than once you give it a chance and apply yourself. Be a discoverer!

Don’t wait for someone to help you, get the confidence and get to work! Use tutorials.

 

What made you decide to become a Technovation student ambassador?

There are many reasons I decided to become a student ambassador but mostly I wanted girls in my community to have access to the world of technology.

First of all, when I participated in Technovation, I didn’t have anyone to help guide me within my community, which created its own set of challenges. After that, I wanted to make sure that girls in my community were aware of the program and feel supported.

Secondly, in my region, only the schools in the main city usually participate in Technovation and I wanted to change that. Becoming a Technovation student ambassador allows me to reach out to more girls.

Finally, I am someone who believes that “what a man can do, a woman can do”. However, in my community some people still think that men and women are not equal. Technology is considered to be for boys. This really compelled me to become a student ambassador and bring Technovation to the girls in my area.

What have you been able to accomplish in that role?

I have introduced Technovation in twelve schools in my community and encouraged them to create Technovation clubs in their schools.  I work with each club and help arrange the meetings with the girls. At the moment I have recruited more than one hundred girls, and I have worked with multiple organizations on the ground to recruit mentors from tech fields to help the girls.

What advice would you give someone who was interested in starting technovation or another coding program but felt intimidated.

You need the ability to believe that you can make it no matter what. The important thing is to stay focused no matter the hardships along the way,  things don’t always go smoothly but if you have determination, you can overcome anything.

For example, 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.

Anybody can be anything they want to be as long as they are determined, regardless of economic, physical, or geographical factors. 

I am very thankful for the people who introduced me to Technovation, it has changed my life. I now think outside the box, and I plan on leaving a mark in the field of technology, no matter how long it takes!

Four lessons from Indra Nooyi’s Inspirational Journey

By Madhavi Bhasin, Senior Director of Technovation

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi poses for a portrait by products at the Tops SuperMarket in Batavia, New York, U.S. on June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Don HeupelI’ve always been inspired by Indra Nooyi’s professional journey. Maybe because I closely identify with her cultural and social challenges. But I strongly believe that her story reflects some mantras that can be helpful for many others around the globe.

Indra Nooyi grew up in India and went to college and business school there. She played cricket — and lead guitar in an all-girl rock band. In 1980, she came to the States and got a second master’s degree at the Yale School of Management. She worked for several years in management consulting, then in corporate strategy, and joined PepsiCo in 1994, as chief strategist. Twelve years later, she became its C.E.O., and now oversees 260,000 global employees and a snack empire that includes Frito-Lay chips, Tropicana juices, Gatorade, Quaker foods, and of course lots and lots of soda.

What’s so special about Indra’s journey?  Well, she is someone who managed to rise to the top despite all social, cultural and gender challenges. Here are four episodes in Indira’s journey that have impressed and inspired me.

1. Your social and cultural norms can’t limit you.

Indira was born in a conservative Indian family and the dream of becoming the CEO of a leading American brand would seem impossible to her. However, she pursued her education and career one step at a time and today she one of the most influential global CEOs.

2. Do what you believe in and give it your 100%.

Against her parents’ advice, she came to the United States in 1978 at age 23 to earn her M.B.A. in Public and Private Management at Yale where she worked as a dorm receptionist—opting for the graveyard shift because it paid an extra 50 cents per hour.

3. Some things you can change, others you can’t. Pick your battles and converse your energy.

(This is an excerpt from an interview with Indra Nooyi)

“I got home about 10, got into the garage, and my mother was waiting at the top of the stairs. And I said, “Mom, I’ve got great news for you.” She said, “let the news wait. Can you go out and get some milk?”

I looked in the garage and it looked like my husband was home. I said, “what time did he get home?” She said “8 o’clock.” I said, “Why didn’t you ask him to buy the milk?” “He’s tired.” Okay. We have a couple of help at home, “why didn’t you ask them to get the milk?” She said, “I forgot.” She said just get the milk. We need it for the morning. So like a dutiful daughter, I went out and got the milk and came back.

I banged it on the counter and I said, “I had great news for you. I’ve just been told that I’m going to be president on the Board of Directors. And all that you want me to do is go out and get the milk, what kind of a mom are you?”

And she said to me, “let me explain something to you. You might be president of PepsiCo. You might be on the board of directors. But when you enter this house, you’re the wife, you’re the daughter, you’re the daughter-in-law, you’re the mother. You’re all of that. Nobody else can take that place. So leave that damned crown in the garage. And don’t bring it into the house. You know I’ve never seen that crown.”

4. Stay connected to your value system even after being successful.

As CEO, she has continued to pursue her unusual, and tremendously ambitious, vision for reinventing PepsiCo. She is now focusing on taking the company from snack food to health food, from caffeine colas to fruit juices, and from shareholder value to sustainable enterprise. That is an ambitious goal which she plans to attain. In doing so, Nooyi is attempting to move beyond the historic trade-off between profits and people. Captured in her artful mantra—”Performance with purpose”—she wants to give Wall Street what it wants but also the planet what it needs.

About Indra Nooyi

Forbe’s 11th Most Powerful Women in 2017
“I Wasn’t Stupid Enough to Say This Could Be Done Overnight” http://freakonomics.com/podcast/indra-nooyi/ via @freakonomics

Student Ambassador Spotlight: Nicole Meister

We recently had the chance to catch up with Nicole Meister, a 2015 and 2016 Technovation participant and now a Technovation Student Ambassador (SA). We talked about her Technovation experience, what she is up to now, and her advice for current and future participants. Nicole Meister was part of Mobile Meisters which developed the app “Mobile Profile” in 2015, and the Petfinder Co. which developed the app “Petfinder” in 2016.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Nicole Meister and I am 17 years old. I go to high school in Maryland. A fun fact about me is that I am half German and half Chinese. In my spare time, I like to teach girls how to code.

What was your relationship or experience with tech before Technovation?

Before Technovation, I was mostly learning various coding languages such as Python and HTML/CSS with Code Academy.  Technovation got me into a real life project for the first time. It showed me how computer science can have a tangible impact on the community.

What made you decide to participate in Technovation?

I heard about Technovation from my school. I was interested in computer science and Technovation was a way I could learn more, and it was a cool avenue to pursue. I had never created an app before. My team was made up of girls with different interests (art, business) but we all did part of the coding.

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Technovation Student Ambassador Spotlight: Jennifer John

By Jennifer John

Standing at the front of the classroom at Herbert Hoover Middle School, I opened my laptop and typed in the familiar URL, which auto filled after the first three characters from repeated use: appinventor.mit.edu. As the site loaded, I watched the stream of girls, between eleven and fourteen years old, come through the door, filling the room with chatter. They spread through the room, sitting down at  the square cookie-cutter tables and starting up their San Francisco school district-issued Chromebooks.

As the chatter gradually faded, I rehearsed in my head the tutorial I was going teach that day: making a multiple-choice trivia app. Although the steps to build the app, which consisted of dragging colored puzzle-piece shaped blocks representing lines of Java code onto a canvas, were now instinctive to me after years of experience with programming, every lesson was a challenge to communicate clearly. I needed to make the process similarly intuitive for the students– so they could fully understand the why behind conditionals and if statements, leaving the class with an additional instrument in their toolkits that they could apply to their own apps in the coming months.

I first began volunteering with Technovation during the 2016-2017 season. After winning the competition in 2016 along with my sister, I was eager to help other girls gain the same life-changing experiences that I had. It was only after the competition that I fully realized just how valuable the skills that Technovation teaches are: coding with an audience in mind, conducting market research, public speaking, and overcoming the at times terrifying (but exhilarating!) aspects of entrepreneurship are all crucial abilities for a budding entrepreneur that are rarely taught in schools. The significance of Technovation’s impact is augmented by its focus on a demographic notoriously underrepresented in entrepreneurship and technology: girls. Particularly for its growing body of international participants, Technovation exposes girls to fields that may have seemed off-limits to their gender, with monumental results.

As a Student Ambassador at Technovation, I get to play a direct role in helping girls discover new possibilities for their futures, whether that’s through teaching at workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area or producing instructional YouTube videos to be seen by girls around the world. It’s profoundly rewarding to know that my work can impact how one person views her abilities, her strengths, and her potential.

It was because of my strong beliefs in Technovation’s mission and previous experiences as a Student Ambassador that I was delighted to be able to teach the Technovation curriculum to the class at Hoover Middle School. Unlike with workshops, as a regular teacher at a school, I have the incredible opportunity to watch first-hand as the girls develop their skills. This progress has been astounding. Since learning how to follow my steps to make a trivia app during my first lesson in October, they have gained enough confidence and practice to design and implement their own apps from scratch. It was a thrilling experience a few weeks ago when I gave the class a few coding challenges for apps, not knowing what to expect, and watched them take the initiative to successfully build them with little to no help from me. That’s how I know they’re learning by leaps and bounds.

Now in January, we’re onto the ideation process, and the girls are tasked with a challenge that would stump many adults: identifying and designing a novel technology-based solution to a problem in their communities. I can’t wait to see the innovative ideas that I know they’ll develop.

*A big thank-you to the Walmart Foundation for helping make this program possible in the San Francisco Bay Area*

Jennifer is a high school junior from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the co-founder and CEO of Loc8Don8, which she began when she competed in Technovation in 2016. She loves all things entrepreneurship and computer science, and is particularly interested in the intersection of artificial intelligence and education. Check out her YouTube channel with programming tutorials here, and visit the Loc8Don8 website here to learn more and download the app.

Hour of Code: Technovation & Investing in Female Technology Leaders Across the Globe

By Madhavi Bhasin

For me, technology wasn’t an option. I never thought about doing something in technology. But [after Technovation], it’s totally in my mind to do something in the technology field.” – Technovation participant, 2013

 

This quote always makes me reflect on my professional journey and how profoundly some experiences have shaped my career trajectory and approach to life. As the first girl in my family to complete high school, college and finally earn my Ph.D., I am fully aware of how certain experiences in my formative years conditioned my thinking and gave me the courage to hang on and move ahead. Today, I am honored and humbled to be part of a movement that is offering one such experience to girls across the globe –  an experience to learn, fail, seek support and create something!

Technovation, offered by Iridescent, is the world’s largest technology entrepreneurship program for young girls (ages 10-18). This program offers young girls a unique experience to work in a team with an adult mentor to solve a problem in their community using technology. More than teaching technology or entrepreneurship, this program aims to inspire young girls to be lifelong learners, problem solvers, and community leaders. Irrespective of the career choices they make, Technovation seeks to provide an experience where young girls can develop a wide range of professional and personal skills and make informed education and career decisions.

How did the journey start?

Technovation, currently in its 8th year, started as an in-person mentoring program with 24 girls at Google in Silicon Valley. Coming out of a Startup Weekend, the idea was to provide a safe sandbox for young girls to have the experience of launching a technology start-up. Under the folds of Iridescent, the program expanded to select US locations in the second year. Finally, the need to offer the program beyond major cities prompted the need to offer a virtual curriculum and support network. Today, Technovation is in 103 countries and has impacted 15,000 girls.

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