Team Lightning Strike is one of the local teams participating in this year’s Technovation challenge.

SFU empowers local girls through the Technovation challenge

April 28, 2017

On Saturday, May 6, Simon Fraser University will host the B.C. regional pitch competition for the global Technovation challenge.

Technovation is a technology entrepreneurship program for girls 10-18 years old. During the 12-week curriculum, participants work in teams to build a mobile app that addresses a local community issue. They learn how to code, develop a business plan and pitch their app to a panel of judges. Winners from the regional competition will qualify for the semi-final round. The final round will take place at the World Pitch Summit in Silicon Valley this summer.

More than 10,000 girls from 78 countries have participated in Technovation since its inception. SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences is one of four regional partners across Canada, and the only one in B.C..

“When I heard about this amazing program, I knew I had to make it more accessible to local girls,” says Daniela Abasi, who partnered with Technovation last year as a regional ambassador. She is also the manager of outreach programs in SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences, and oversees a number of initiatives in Metro Vancouver to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“One of our priorities in the faculty is to close the gender gap in STEM by providing young girls with quality opportunities to develop these skills and solve real-world problems.”

Abasi was expecting around 50 girls from B.C. to participate in this year’s challenge, but was surprised when more than 200 signed up. This illustrates the local demand for programs that provide STEM training for young girls.

Men have traditionally dominated technology and engineering-related careers, making the field less inviting for women. Fortunately, STEM-based programs are having a positive impact—according to Technovation, 58 per cent of its participants enroll in computer science courses, and 26 per cent pursue a post-secondary computer science degree.

By engaging in technology and engineering projects at a young age, girls can begin to see these fields as viable career paths. That was the case for Sayyeda Mussa and Julia Kim, two local participants from previous years who are now pursuing degrees in the Faculty of Applied Sciences at SFU.

“I did not think about studying in STEM before and I found that the Technovation program definitely changed my perspective,” says Mussa, who is a second-year SFU computing science student.

“I was restricting my options to commonly known career paths such as medicine and law. This experience showed me what opportunities exist in the tech sector, and what the benefits of coding are.”

For Kim, pursuing STEM was an obvious choice, but the Technovation experience helped her realize a path she had not considered before.

“I was definitely interested in studying STEM before, but more geared towards the sciences rather than technology or engineering,” says Kim.

“Engineering seemed unapproachable to me before, but constantly being exposed to programs and opportunities like Technovation, I was influenced to choose engineering,” she says. Kim is now a first-year SFU engineering student.

Mussa and Kim are now actively involved in promoting the Technovation program and events at SFU. Mussa also led a user experience (UX) design workshop for program participants earlier this year.

“I am sure that a lot of girls are experiencing some level of uncertainty around what to pursue after graduating high school and I want to help open their options,” says Mussa.

The SFU Faculty of Applied Sciences is able to bring the global Technovation challenge to the local community through generous support from its partners: TELUS Vancouver Community BoardVisier and Safe Software.