“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people… and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” – Steve Jobs
It was a hive of activity at Hypercube Tech Hub on Saturday, as girls participating in the Technovation Challenge were going through their curriculum. Some girls were finishing their MIT App Inventor tutorials, whilst others were embroiled in brainstorming exercises. MIT App Inventor is an open-source web application originally provided by Google, and now maintained by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).It allows newcomers to computer programming to create software applications for the Android operating system (OS)
Girls using MIT App Inventor
Technovation Challenge is the world’s largest and longest-running tech competition for girls. In the Technovation Challenge, teams of 4-5 middle and high school girls identify a problem, invent an app to solve it, code the app, create a company to launch the app in the market, and finally pitch their plan to experts for funding—all in 12 weeks. Through this experience, girls realize that computer programming gives an individual, regardless of gender or age, the ability to make a difference in the lives of others.
At the end of the program, teams pitch their product to regional judges, and finalists travel to the World Pitch event where they present their projects to a live audience and highly esteemed panel of experts. The winning team is awarded $10,000 in seed funding from Iridescent (sponsored by the Office of Naval Research), along with support to further develop their mobile app and take it to market.
Girls Alert and Shinning Stars group members
In Zimbabwe the Technovation Challenge is being run by an organisation called Techwomen Zimbabwe which comprises of Rumbidzayi Mlambo (Board Chair),Unity Chipunza,Aretha Mare (Executive Director) Sibaliso Mhlanga and Sandra Tererai who are the founding members.Whilst Hypercube Tech Hub is providing working space for Techwomen Zimbabwe.
Rumbidzayi Mlambo who is a regional co-rdinator for the Technovation Challenge said she is impressed with how the challenge is moving. She said
“So far the technovation challenge has been going on well. The girls are now getting used to using MIT App inventor and can now do so without any assistance. They are some who are behind as usual but we are trying as much as possible to ensure that the girls get to complete all required tasks. The girls have now completed their paper prototypes and are continuing with their market surveys and market research. they have to analyze at leas 5 competitor Apps and profile them and state how their App will be different and what special features it will have. Starting next week they wil start building their own App and start working on their business plan incorporating information from their research and survey. Its really amazing that the girls have identified critical challenges in the community and they are excited about the potential of technology in solving these problems”
A group participating in the Technovation with their mentor and teacher
Rumbidzayi also shed light on the kind of apps that some groups participating in the Technovation Challenge are working on when she said
“To give a brief snippet of whats going on in Technovation Challenge without going into much detail we have a team working on an App for women entrepreneurs to sell their goods, we have a team working on a mobile clinic, we have our Baby Geeks group working on an app for monitoring movements/tracking of children by their parents & teachers, we also have a team working on an App to help the old suffering from problems like Dementia. We also have a group working on a mobile chat platform for girls who have been abused and seeking assistance from counselors and other organisations. I will give more information on other apps next week”
However the Technovation Challenge has its share of challenges,
“We have of course faced a few challenges along the road and we are seeking support from well wishers to support these girls with android devices to test and develop their Apps. Laptops to work on their projects. Right now we are working with about 5 laptops generously offered by Hypercubehub, they have also offered a working space for the girls with fiber internet. So the teams are rotating coming to Hypercube Tech Hub throughout the week and a few of the girls have laptops so we have 1 laptop between 5 girls. The girls also need to tour ICT firms o get a feel of app development in action. We are also looking for prizes for the local competition and to incenivize the girls so that its not just about going to the US.” said Rumbidzayi
Girls going through their Technovation Challenge tutorials
The Technovation Challenge has produced a number of popular apps over the years. Two winning apps are currently on the market for free—I.O.U. by Sparking APPles and MASH by Team ZEAL. StudiCafe by CoffeeBeans (a social network to help students study for AP exams) and Arrive (a school attendance check-in system with robot) by the Nightingale-Bamford School are currently in development.
Despite the ubiquity and pervasive influence of technology in the modern world, very few girls study computer science in Zimbabwe and Techwomen Zimbabwe is one organisation that has emerged with a mission to inspire girls to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
If you want to offer support or learn more about Techwomen Zimbabwe programs, their contact details are as follows; Contact rumbi[at]techwomenzim.com / rumbidzayirose[at]gmail.com, aretha[at]techwomenzim.com / aretha.mare[at]gmail.com.
This article was written by James Mlambo and was first published on Mobile Learning Zone.