We had an amazing time presenting at the Dare 2B Digital conference over the weekend in Redwood City, CA. Throughout the day we worked with middle and high school students, and had them create paper prototypes. Girls worked in teams, developed paper prototypes, and then pitched them in front of their class.
Some of our favorites were ideas were: “Plantsopedia” an app that allows users to identify plants while they are hiking using image recognition, “Wild Thing” which allows users to merge an image of their face with that of a wild animal, and “Travelate” which scans and translates signs and other written material in real time for travelers visiting foreign countries.
Have any cool app ideas? Share with us!
This week’s mentor is Katherine, a veteran Technovation mentor working with a team at the Immaculate Conception Academy in San Francisco. We are lucky to have Katherine as our SF mentor coordinator this year, as she’s done a fabulous job organizing events for our mentors in the Bay Area. Katherine currently works at Boku as a product manager.
KATHERINE’S INTERVIEW WITH US:
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up? What was your school experience like? Include anything else you’d like to share about your youth.
I grew up next to the Rocky Mountains in Boulder, CO. I enjoyed most of my classes in school, but I never was a big fan of history. As I started high school, I started to notice that math was one of my favorite subjects - I loved the satisfaction of realizing that math could help solve real problems in the world. Outside of school, I was a Girl Scout (all the way through high school!) and loved painting. I also played volleyball for 4 years in high school and played doubles volleyball outside during the summers.
After high school, I went to college to study engineering. I wanted to learn skills which would let me have an impact in the world, and I thought it was neat that engineering focuses on building stuff that people actually use. I chose Electrical and Computer Engineering, because I thought the iPhone was really cool and wanted to learn more about both the hardware (the electrical chips in the phone) and the software (the goo used to build apps!).
What was it like studying engineering in college? What did you like most about your classes?
Studying engineering was one of the best decisions I have made. :) The classes are hard, but it’s ok not to know everything in the beginning. I remember some of my classes had really intimidating names like “quantum mechanics”, but I learned to develop a growth mindset. I reminded myself that the whole point of attending college is to learn something new. And man, did I learn new things! I learned how solar panels work, how cell phones send and receive text messages in just seconds across the globe, and how Twitter can process millions of tweets all over the world.
I have so many fond memories from college. When I wasn’t busy studying or working with friends on homework sets or in the lab, I went to football games, parties, concerts, speakers…everything! It sounds silly now, but you will need naps occasionally in college — it’s exhausting working and playing so much. One my favorite ways to spend an afternoon was to get a cup of coffee and nap on the grass in the sun, with the Colorado mountains as the backdrop.
What did you learn in school that is valuable to you today?
I don’t use many of the specific skills I learned in school (e.g. how to write a sonnet, the causes for the Civil War), but I still use many math fundamentals on a day to day. For example, I need to analyze data for Boku products all the time. I ask questions like: How many people paid by mobile last month? What was the average amount they spent? What is the distribution of places they paid (e.g. Facebook - 40%, Zynga 10%)?
How did you get your job now? What do you like the most about it?
Now I work at Boku, a mobile payments startup, in downtown San Francisco. After finishing college, I knew that I wanted my first job to be exciting and challenge me each day. Startups are a great way to develop a broad skill set quickly. I work with an engineering team to find and build ways for people to pay with their cell phone…but I also get to do about 100 other things! I build presentations to pitch new ideas to people inside and outside of the company, I attend conferences around the world to learn more about mobile payments, I crunch numbers to learn how people use Boku and how it can be improved, and I solve tough problems on a whiteboard daily with my team. The people and team are my favorite part - they make work fun and motivating each day!
It sounds like you get to do a lot more than just programming in your job. What’s the coolest conference you’ve attended and why?
I got to go to a conference about Near-Field Communication (NFC) payments in Nice, France! A week long conference on the beaches of southern France? Sign me up!
Wow! That sounds incredible. What has been your favorite part of Technovation Challenge?
Technovation 2013 is just beginning, but I loved meeting my team the first week at Immaculate Conception Academy high school. We brainstormed app ideas our first week, and I was uber-impressed at how many creative ideas they have. I have always thought women are particularly good at identifying problems and coming up with creative solutions that help real people. :)
What advice do you have for Technovation girls who are new to the program?
I know that sometimes it can be tempting to only work on projects where you feel comfortable. For example, I used to volunteer to do the written part of group projects, since I felt like I was good at it. A big part of Technovation is to learn some new things (e.g. learn how to code an Android app, learn how to create a business plan). Trying new things can sometimes feel scary or uncomfortable, but it’s worth it! Twelve weeks from now, you will be really proud of what you accomplished. Don’t be afraid to try out new things and make some mistakes. It’s part of the fun and your team and mentor have your back :)
That’s great advice. Can you tell us about about a time when you had to step out of your comfort zone?
I moved from Boulder, Colorado to San Francisco after college. Now I know how to get around and live in a big city. But my first few months, I was nervous and had a lot of learning to do. I never took public transit much in Colorado or worked in skyscrapers downtown. I also took a big risk by joining a startup instead of a more established company like Google or Microsoft. Startups have a lot of unknowns, and there is rarely someone to tell you what to do or how to do things. Sometimes I feel like I’m making it up! haha. But ultimately, I know that being out of my comfort zone is how I learn new things and overcome new challenges. Startups are unpredictable, but often have happily surprised me too. Now I thrive in ambiguous situations at work, but it has taken time and a lot of stepping out of my comfort zone to get there. :)
Do you have a rockstar mentor who you would like to nominate for our “Mentor Spotlight”? Email her name to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next week’s feature mentor!
As we kick our 4th Technovation Challenge season off next week with our 12-week course on P2PU, we would like to introduce our team at Iridescent. We are the four women in Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco who run Technovation Challenge. It is a pleasure to work with your teams around the world this season.
Jenna Blanton, Director of Communications and Program Development, Technovation Challenge
Jenna Blanton has a track record for empowering the lives of young people through science education. Previous to her time at Iridescent she served an AmeriCorps VISTA at the California Conservation Corps (CCC). In her position at the CCC she enhanced the agencies capacity to educate thousands of underserved young adults. Since 2010 Jenna has led the Iridescent Science Studio in South LA and has had a deep commitment to providing programming for underrepresented communities. In 2011 she led the Technovation Challenge scale up to Los Angeles. Jenna earned her B.S. In Environmental Science and B.A in Organizational Communication from Western Michigan University.
AnnaLise Hoopes, Director SF Bay Area, Technovation Challenge
AnnaLise holds a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Studio Art from the University of Notre Dame, a Master’s in Education from Harvard University, and a California teaching credential. AnnaLise taught elementary school before joining Iridescent in 2010. Over the past two and a half years, she has worked to grow Iridescent’s Technovation program from 43 girls to 520 nationwide. AnnaLise is passionate about empowering young people with the skills, tools and confidence to make a difference in the world.
Angélica Torres, Senior Director, Technovation Challenge
Angélica applies her research backgroundin anthropology, ecology, and psychology to create learning environments and communities that create bridges between corporations, pre-K-12 classrooms, and higher education. She came to know STEM as an educational concept via a NSF Graduate K-12 fellowship. She loves project management and in a previous job delivered fast-paced assignments for Wall Street and life science executives. Angélica led Technovation Challenge 2012 in NYC and oversees global operations for Technovation Challenge 2013. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and 7-month old son.
Tahani Zeid, Director of Educational Technology, Technovation Challenge
Welcome to the Technovation blog!
By starting this Tumblr page, we wanted to give everyone access to the program and allow people to see what goes on behind the scenes. Technovation mentors, students and judges are welcome to upload video, quotes or photos as they work together to develop their mobile apps.
We hope you’ll stay tuned!
The Technovation Crew
For those of you not familiar with Technovation:
The Technovation Challenge is a program that inspires girls to see themselves not just as users of technology, but as inventors, designers, builders and entrepreneurs. This spring, over 500 girls across the country will learn computer science and entrepreneurship as they design and create mobile apps. The challenge this year is to develop a science education app, so the girls are learning both programming and science content as they create their apps. They will be supported by women mentors from the technology industry who will guide them through the process of developing an app prototype and writing a business plan. Courses are hosted by technology companies including Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Adobe and Twitter.
Pitch Night Details
Each region will have a pitch competition in April, and the finalists from NYC, Boston, and Los Angeles will be flown to the San Francisco Bay Area for a National Pitch Night on May 3rd. At this event, teams will have a chance to pitch their app ideas and business plans to a panel of high profile judges for a chance to have their app professionally developed and featured on the Android Market. The first hour of the event will be a cocktail hour where girls demo apps and present posters to the judges. Teams will also bring in models which illustrate the science concept their app teaches, to provide a hands-on element. The rest of the evening will consist of teams pitching, judges evaluating, and winning teams announced.