October 2017—Three girls from the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia wanted to learn computer coding. They also knew that air pollution was the biggest problem their city faced and were determined to find a way to address the issue. At their teachers’ urgings, they took on the Technovation Challenge(link is external), an international competition that encourages girls to learn computer coding and use the knowledge to address specific issues in their communities that have global impact.

Dasha Tabunschyk, Zhenya Kaminska and Anya Shilo, who call themselves “Z-Teen” and are all about 14 years old, decided that helping residents find relief from their city’s air pollution was their aim. They quickly discovered the MIT App Inventor 2 mapping software, developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and began to map out data points on pollution levels in Zaporizhzhia.

“We used MIT App Inventor 2 software to develop maps showing the points where officials measure the quality of the air on a daily basis,” explained Dasha. “The data are transferred to the mobile application, where all Zaporizhzhia residents can see for themselves what areas that they need to avoid because they are most heavily polluted that day.”

The mobile app they developed, which they call Air Near, allows smartphone users to see the levels of air pollution in specific rayons, or areas, of Zaporizhzhia and whether they fall within the limits proscribed by government regulations. Z-Teen’s objective was not merely to make residents more aware of the problem, but to motivate them to become agents of change, actively standing together to demand compliance with international, not old Soviet, standards.