Dharavi Girls Create Mobile Apps Through Technovation


Six years ago, Slumdog Millionaire attracted international attention to the challenges of slum life in India, and was one of several attempts to capture the grit of the slum dwellers in India. More recently, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers has also attracted a great deal of attention for its exploration of similar themes—juxtaposing the impressive 21st century developments in Mumbai with the expectations and hopes of those living in the slums.

These and many other narratives continue to tell the story of hope simmering in the hearts of millions of Indians.

The socio-economic divide in India has long been appalling, but the advent of new technology (cable television, access to internet, affordable mobile phones, mushrooming availability of crash courses in English language and expansion of BPO job opportunities) is changing the centuries old rich/poor dynamic in India. India’s social landscape is a living testimonial to Technology’s equalizing power as youth from the challenged community sections are using technology in myriad ways to break away from the cycle of poverty and create a new future for themselves and their families. Technovation, a technology entrepreneurship program for young girls (10-18 years), has allowed a group of girls from the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai to develop and apply their problem solving and technical skills within a technological context. Offered through the Dharavi Diary, a slum innovation project, Technovation is impacting the lives of young girls in the slums, encouraging them to become creators and users of technology.

Girls from 2015 Technovation in Dharavi share what this program means for them:

Sapna (13 years old) – I never ever dreamt that I will be able to work on laptops and learn coding as my parents earn very little. My mother works as a laborer at construction site and my father is a house interior painter. Through Dharavi Diary Leadership skills workshop and Technovation I have learnt so much about power of technology. Now I dream to improve my family income by learning news digital tools to break the cycle of poverty.

Ansuja (14 years old) – Through Technovation Dharavi program run by Dharavi Diary, i am inspired to make a difference in my community. I am learning digital tools and leadership skills. My father died in a road accident last year. I was depressed but when this program started in my neighborhood, I got new hope, zeal, courage to fight, learn and share new tools with my community.

Deepali (12 years old) – My father doesn’t work after his head injury. My mother is a housewife. Our economic situation is always an issue. I am learning how to make mobile apps from this program. I will learn all things needed to make my family financial situation better.


Learning to Empower



Guest Post by Veena Basavaraj, Engineer at Cloudera and Technovation 2015 Mentor.

I am Veena and I live in the bay area and been coding since 12 years. Since a few years I felt the need to grow and explore roles beyond just been an engineer or coder. I was introduced to the Techwomen mentorship via LinkedIn and realized how enriching and rewarding a mentorship can be. In the past 2 years I have met women from diverse fields and cultures, not just computer programming but other equally challenging fields of product ideation, business development, marketing, operations management etc. It made me realize that coding and building is just one small part of this fascinating experience of creating, building and executing an idea. It took me this long in my career to realize this, but thanks to the very thoughtfully designed Technovation program, I get to be a mentor to some amazing girls globally and help them understand all these aspects of ideation, coding and execution at their young age in the span of 3 months. This year I took up mentoring high school girls from Palestine – Team Archons and in one month of my mentorship I have seen them embrace this program and the excitement of building and owning their idea. I am learning to empower and help nurture their passion to create and execute on their idea. When I see them succeed every day it is an amazing feeling, thanks to Technovation.

Innovating for the Future at the Tech Museum

When The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA invited Technovation to run a workshop for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, we couldn’t turn it down. About 50 girls in grades 4-8 came together on a Thursday morning to do some brainstorming about how they could be the ones to change and help their communities. In short, it was amazing. These girls had big ideas, and wanted to impact their communities in positive ways.


We kicked off the morning with a brief introduction to Technovation, and then asked the girls to introduce themselves to someone sitting nearby and form teams of 4 or 5. Some of the girls came with friends or sisters, but a lot of them didn’t know anyone else in the tinkering studio at The Tech Museum. Without much hesitation at all, the girls clustered into teams and quickly became friends. This is something that often requires much more prodding in adults!


Once the girls formed their teams, we prompted them to identify some community problems. The fantastic staff at The Tech Museum gave the girls tours of the Tech Challenge Awards to give them some ideas about community problems and the different ways they were solved. Once the girls decided on their focus for a community problem, they formed solutions and sketched out some prototypes of what an app solving the problem could look like. We saw some wonderful solutions addressing problems ranging from the California drought to homelessness! These creative young women serve as a great reminder that we should all think big, and focus on the possibilities rather than the impossible.


App Inventor Resource Round-Up

Technovation 2014 is off and running! We have been so excited to see all of the registrations come in over the past few weeks, and as the program really gets underway, thought it would be great to share some of the App Inventor resources we’ve come across this season.

  1. Emulator Patch: We love App Inventor, and think it’s a great place to start learning how to code—it’s free, it’s simple to use for beginners, but it’s also powerful enough to use to build sophisticated apps…but nothing’s perfect, and we’ve heard that some teams have had trouble setting it up this year. If you’re having trouble with the emulator, be sure to check out this resource from MIT on how to troubleshoot.
  2. Map It: Are you designing an app that makes use of maps, but having trouble figuring out how to build in a map function? Then you’ll probably love this MIT tutorial from M. Hossein Amerkashi showing you how to view recorded addresses—and current locations—on Google Maps.
  3. Arduino Challenge: If you’re looking for a challenge and seeking tools to be more innovative with your app, you should definitely check out this tutorial on how to control an arduino board using an android phone…and then it’s up to you and your imagination to make use of this new knowledge.

If you use these resources be sure to let us know how you like them—and if you find other resources you want to share, let us know so we can share them with the entire community, or you can post about them in the community forum!

WeTech launches in India with Technovation Challenge and Virtual Mentoring

By Madhavi  Bhasin

“Change occurs after people take action, and action occurs when people are inspired.” Trish Tierney, Director, Institute of International Education’s Center for Women’s Leadership Initiatives

With the goal of inspiring action and change, Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) program was inaugurated in India on February 8, 2014. WeTech is a program helping more women and girls enter into, and succeed in, careers and education in tech. Launched last fall at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting, this program is led by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and carried out with a consortium that includes Goldman Sachs, Google and Qualcomm Incorporated.

WeTech Technovation Challenge Team Chingaari with team leads from Goldman Sachs

The WeTech Inauguration Day also served as a Technovation Hack Day, during which students, mentors, and teachers came together to kick-off the Technovation Challenge for 12 teams from high schools across Bangalore, India.  Goldman Sachs hosted the event at its Bangalore office, providing an opportunity for 60 girls to meet the women from Goldman Sachs and Qualcomm who are volunteering their time and expertise and with whom they will work over the next two months.



The event opened with the ceremonial lighting of the lamp followed by panel discussion on the importance of inspiring girls to consider tech careers. The panel featured senior executives from Goldman Sachs and Qualcomm. During the Technovation Challenge introduction session, the girls participated in a hands-on demo of the App Inventor platform. Teams had the opportunity to meet and interact with their mentors during the team building and networking sessions.

Each team of girls is currently working, with a mentor from Goldman Sachs or Qualcomm, to identify a problem in their community and design a mobile app to address the issue. During the month of April, the teams will submit their app ideas and pitch to compete with girls from more than thirty countries around the world in the Technovation Global Challenge.

In the next few weeks, WeTech will organize tech talks for the teams to inspire them further and offer networking opportunities. The teams were excited to meet with Anuranjita Tewary, founder of Technovation and attend Women’s Day celebrations at the Intuit office in Bangalore in March. A regional pitch event, planned for May 2014, will showcase the app ideas from the WeTech Technovation Teams.

WeTech Global Meeting with Anuranjita Tewary, founder of Technovation

A recent article highlighted that women in India are still missing from the forefront of the tech sector. WeTech aims to address this challenge and expand opportunities for young girls and women to consider and excel in technology careers. In addition to the Technovation Challenge offered to high school girls, WeTech has launched a virtual mentoring program for female students enrolled in universities across India. The mentoring program connects leaders from Goldman Sachs and Qualcomm with female students as they transition from their university studies into the workforce. The WeTech mentoring program provides a channel for women to support, connect and inspire each other within and across generations, borders and cultures.

Through Technovation and virtual mentoring, WeTech aims to help build the pipeline of girls entering in to tech in Africa, India and the United States.


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.


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.


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.



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!


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



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.

Teacher Spotlight: Sara Speigel

We recently connected with Sara Spiegel, a teacher at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, to hear about her experience coordinating five Technovation teams last year.


Tell us about James Madison High School and your experience there as an educator. Why did you feel Technovation Challenge was a good fit for you, your students, and your school?

 James Madison High School is large public school located in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. I have been teaching at Madison for 11 years. I started off teaching math but now I teach computer science as well. I am also the coordinator for the Academy of Information Technology, a program within our school that gets curriculum and support from the National Academy Foundation. I first became excited to bring the Technovation program to Madison when I discussed it with a coworker at a meeting. My coworker, Michelle Turnbull, and I envisioned how we could break up the programming and the creative aspects between the two of us. At Madison, we have a computer science sequence and this program enhances it by bringing in mentors, having students work on teams and helping students to learn about entrepreneurship and how computer science can solve problems in all disciplines.

Tell us more about you. How did you recruit and manage 25 girls in your first time participating? How would you describe your role during the 12-week program?

I told girls in my math team and in the computer science classes about the challenge in November. Some students brought friends. By December, we started to meet to go through the tutorials. Once the competition began, Michelle led the girls through the lessons on Wednesdays. I worked on App Inventor with the students on Fridays. Also, I recruited college students to assist the teams.

Your school is in Brooklyn, in an area where most mentors would have to travel a bit from Manhattan or other areas in Brooklyn to get to you. You solved this problem by having virtual mentors. Can you tell us more about how you found the mentors and how the virtual mentoring occurred?

I found my first mentor through the Technovation website way before the program began. I tried to find local mentors by emailing my neighborhood mommy listerv. This led to a post in the neighborhood blog, where I got quite a few interested responses, and eventually one mentor. In the end, JuAnne, my first committed mentor, helped me find more mentors, who connected me with more mentors. We ended up with 6 professional women working with 5 teams. Students meet with their mentor virtually during our meeting time. Students scheduled the meets, and they occurred either on Wednesday or Fridays.

Tell us about how teams came up with ideas for your app. How did teams get everything done in 12 weeks? 

Michelle worked with the teams on generating a list of ideas and then the mentor helped narrow it down. Teams were very secretive, and did not reveal their ideas with each other. So much of it came together at the end.

What other activities such as field trips and other events did you participate in as part of Technovation?

Students had a tour of Google and then pitched their app to Product Managers.

What do you think students learn the most from completing the program?

Students learned what it takes to do something from conception to completion. They saw that a great idea is only a start.

Would you recommend Technovation to other educators and if so, what advice would you give them?

Technovation is a great program. If you plan on having more than one team, find one mentor, then use their network to find the rest. Not only did students who participated benefit from their relationship with their mentors, but so have all of my current students. Each mentor volunteered to talk to one class about their education/work history and their current job responsibilities. My students were in awe that they talked to women from ESPN, Google and University of Iowa.

Sara Spiegel is the Coordinator of the Academy of IT at James Madison High School in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, where she also teaches math and computer science. 

Girl tested, mother approved – Collaborating in Los Angeles

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The 2014 season Technovation season kicked off in Los Angeles, CA with high hopes of bringing together girl-focused organizations to create more opportunities for girls and women in technology and entrepreneurship. When thinking about which organizations to partner with to reach more young women, the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA) was a natural fit because of their dedication to personal growth and leadership development opportunities for young women ages 14-23.


It was the hard work and dedication of troop leaders, like Gloria Halfacre, that a pilot Girls Make App Workshop was kicked off with the Marina Del Rey Service Unit. Over 80 girls attended the workshop and a parent-led team, GS 7255, was born. The team is led by a Girl Scout parent, Helen Hand, who is serving in the “coach” role for the four young women, Gemma, Devon, Francesca, and Marisa, who joined the ranks of 2,000 young women who are currently registered for Technovation 2014. What motivated these girls to get involved with Technovation? As Gemma puts it, “I want to do the Technovation program so I can learn more about the world of technology and become a more well-rounded person.” Technovation and GSGLA banded together to train 13 Mission Delivery Specialists to deliver more workshops to their local areas. The most recent event was held in Palmdale at the Antelope Valley where young women worked on paper prototyping and MIT App Inventor tutorials.

An integral part of providing a quality experience for young women of Technovation and GSGLA are the female mentors that give graciously of their time to look back and help girls who are in a position they were once in. Technovation’s go to source of dedicated volunteers is Girls in Tech LA, a Los Angeles chapter of Girls


in Tech, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and global social network enterprise focused on the engagement, education, and empowerment of women in technology and on mentoring girls of all ages to encourage interest in STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math). Murriel Perez, Director of Community Events and Partnerships, has stepped up in a big way for Technovation and the GS 7255 team. She brought together 12 mentors that each give one week of their time to rotate through the Technovation curriculum, each taking ownership of one lesson for the team. Thanks to volunteers like Dasha Ki, Brigette Kidd, and Sean McCabe, among many others, for sharing their various expertise and experiences to provide a wide range of career insights and support skills to the young women of GS7255 as they build their mobile app and business plan.

Technovation’s collaboration with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles and Girls in Tech LA has shown the power of uniting resources and mind-sharing to reach our common goals, empowering women and providing new opportunities for girls. The deadline to register for Technovation 2014 is quickly approaching on March 1st and with collaborations such as this one more young women will have the opportunity to get involved and complete the program. To register your team today click here!

Technovation receives Google Grant for 2014 season!


Technovation’s 2014 program begins today, and we’re excited to announce that Google has committed $435,000 in funding to Technovation for its unique approach to technology education.

The dearth of women in engineering is well-documented–according to the Computer Research Association’s annual report, fewer than 12% of Computer Science Engineering graduates are women, and there has been a great deal of buzz in recent months over the lack of women in powerful positions in Silicon Valley. A number of new programs have launched in response to this buzz, designed to teach young women how to code.

Technovation, founded in 2010, takes a different approach. Instead of coding classes, Technovation’s curriculum teaches young women how to be technology entrepreneurs.



Connecting app development (and computer science) to community problems reshapes young women’s conception of the tech industry. Coupled with a curriculum that takes participants through every stage of development, this reframing helps young women reconsider their roles in the tech industry and see themselves as creators of technology rather than just consumers of it.

So far, Technovation counts 1,300 young women as alumnae, and we’re looking forward to using this Google Grant to bring our technology entrepreneurship curriculum to more young women around the world.

Between the grant, the two new divisions (for middle school and university students), and the increase to $20,000 to award to three teams to further develop their apps, this is shaping up to be an exciting year.

The season starts today, and registration is open through March 1!



(You can read more in our official announcement, and sign up to register here)

You Can Inspire Girls to Be Technology Entrepreneurs

When I volunteered to speak with high school girls about my own experience founding a tech startup, I didn’t know how much that short talk would change my life.

By Samantha Quist (Senior Director, Technovation)

Back in 2012, I took a few minutes out of my schedule as a busy startup founder to speak with a room full of high school girls about my experience. I was hoping to inspire them to become technology entrepreneurs and found startups of their own one day. These girls were participating in Technovation, the largest global technology entrepreneurship program just for girls. What I didn’t know at that time was how much that brief experience would go on to change my own life.

We all know that there’s a shortage of women in technology. But I didn’t really understand the problem until I founded my own technology startup in 2011. I looked for role models who were women tech entrepreneurs. And looked. And looked. I met a few, but mostly I learned how hard they are to find. I discovered that just 4% of Y Combinator founders were female (though the numbers are now said to be up to a whopping 10%). When I joined the Board at AOL’s First Floor Labs startup workspace and helped to screen applicants for that program, I experienced the challenge of finding promising female founders first hand.

After I spoke with those high school girls back in 2012, over 1,000 people went on to watch my talk online, and my own credibility as a founder increased. Prospective clients and mentors started to open meetings by telling me that they had already seen my talk online. My own career path completely changed. I don’t know how much I succeeded in inspiring the girls, but the experience of speaking with them certainly inspired me. Just over a year later, I put my startup on hold and signed on to run Technovation.

Technovation’s intensive technology entrepreneurship curriculum has 1,300 alumnae in 19 countries already, and growing. During the 3-month course, girls work with female mentors from the tech industry to design, develop, and build mobile app prototypes, and then pitch them to prospective investors for $20k in awards. If I had experienced such a program when I was younger, I think that my own winding career path that I described to that classroom full of high school girls would have been a much more direct one.

Technovation is looking for volunteers now, to help grow the program for the February to April 2014 season. Women 2.0 members are especially well qualified to be inspiring coaches and role models for young women worldwide. In particular, the program needs:

  • Female Mentors. Work directly with a team of girls, either in person or through videochat, to guide them through designing, developing, and pitching their mobile app prototypes. Past mentors describe a highly satisfying and transformational experience that helped them develop their own leadership and product management skills. No mobile app development experience is necessary. The commitment is 2 hours per week for each of 12 weeks. (Or, make half of that commitment and be a co-mentor.)

  • Teachers / Group Leaders. We call them “teachers” on our website because many of them are middle school and high school teachers who open up their classrooms for after-school meetings — but anyone with a safe space for girls to meet with reliable wifi can oversee a group of girls and their mentors as they work their way through the curriculum. Teachers can be men or women. The commitment is 4 hours per week for each of 12 weeks.

  • Regional Coordinators and Volunteers. Help recruit girls and mentors to Technovation in your community, speak to groups of girls about your experience as a woman in tech, or help us spread the word about Technovation to local press outlets. The commitment can be anywhere from 5 to 100 hours between now and March 1st.

I remember my own experience as a Technovation speaker, pitch coach, and volunteer back when I was a lonely female startup founder, and how it turned out to be a far more fulfilling experience than I ever could have imagined. Perhaps the same will turn out to be true for you.

You can sign up to be a volunteer mentor, teacher, or coordinator today. Or, reach out to me ([email protected]) or sign up at http://technovationchallenge.org with questions.

ps. Got technical skills? Help Technovation’s parent science education nonprofit, Iridescent, by applying to be the Director of Software Engineering or a Software Engineer and help develop the technology that will deliver science education to more students globally.

This article was also cross-posted at Women 2.0


Samantha Quist is the Senior Director of Technovation and founder and CEO of Copywriter Central, and internet startup incubated at AOL’s First Floor Labs in Palo Alto. She was previously a Product Marketing Manager at Google, founder of her own editorial business, and Director of Marketing for a high-growth internet startup. She’s a self-taught Ruby on Rails developer who is passionate about using technology to make the world a better place. She graduated from Stanford University. Follow her on Twitter @samanthaquist.