Young app developers tackle drugs, gender inequality and other community issues
A group of girls is turning community problems into opportunities, developing apps that provide easy-to-use solutions.
On May 6, 24 teams of girls aged 10 to 18 from across Metro Vancouver participated in the 2017 Technovation B.C. Regional Pitch Event hosted by SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences.
The teams pitched their app prototypes and business plans to a panel of industry judges from TELUS, Visier and Safe Software.
Despite their young age, participants didn’t shy away from tackling some big issues, including drugs, mental health, women’s rights, equality, immigration, education and climate change.
“It's exciting to see SFU's investment and enthusiasm for programs like Technovation, which help to engage young women in technology,” says engineering science professor Lesley Shannon. She is also the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (BC/Yukon).
“They can demonstrate their creativity and collaboration while also exploring the potential for social impact.”
Shannon has reason to be excited. Several participants from previous years took part in the challenge again this year. Others who have gone on to university are volunteering as mentors or developing their apps further. Overall, the program is becoming a springboard for young women who aspire to be innovators.
This year, teams from West Vancouver and Coquitlam were selected as the first- and second-place winners in the regional senior division category. They will represent B.C. in the semi-final round of the global Technovation Challenge. Finalists will compete for the grand prize of $10,000 (junior division) or $15,000 (senior division) in Silicon Valley this summer.
A complete list of the winning apps from the senior and junior divisions is below.
First Place: Raise It! (West Vancouver)*
This app focuses on self-improvement and self-confidence, and navigates users through activities that develop their ability to confidently express themselves.
Second Place: YOUth Under Roof (Coquitlam)*
This app provides support for at-risk youth through such features as a chat function, a map that marks relevant services nearby, a resource list, and emergency contacts.
Third Place: ConnectCity (North Vancouver)
This app helps residents and immigrants navigate through their city and learn more about each location, while providing access to translation tools.
First Place: ZeroWaste (Vancouver)
This app is a fun and interactive way to learn about sorting waste, and local community waste-collection rules.
Second Place (tied): Wildlife Alert Reporting (Burnaby)
This app alerts users when wildlife sightings are reported nearby, and provides tips on how to stay safe if they encounter the animal.
Second Place (tied): HELP (Delta)**
This app helps new immigrants find housing, employment, transportation and shops in four different languages: English, French, Chinese and Punjabi.
Third Place: StoryFire (Coquitlam)
This app allows users to anonymously share stories of difficult scenarios they have encountered, to help other users overcome their obstacles. The built-in reporting feature helps eliminate inappropriate content and prevent cyber-bullying.
*Teams that automatically advance to semi-final round.
**Team that also won the Community Favourite Poster award.
About SFU's partnership with Technovation:
Daniela Abasi, manager of outreach programs for SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences, became a regional ambassador for Technovation in 2016, and launched the SFU Technovation workshops and events to encourage participation among local girls. Abasi is one of four regional ambassadors across Canada, and the only one in B.C. The 2017 program at SFU was supported by generous contributions from the TELUS Vancouver Community Board, Visier and Safe Software.
Technovation is a technology entrepreneurship program for girls aged 10 to 18. It aims to develop their technology and business skills, and teach them how to apply these skills to real-world problems. Over the 12-week curriculum, participants identify an issue in their community, build an app prototype, develop a business plan and pitch their idea to a panel of judges. Since its inception in 2010, Technovation has reached more than 10,000 girls in 78 countries.