SHS girls win second place at U of C Technovation Challenge
Dr. Mea Wang(left to right), Kaila Estall, Emma Ewashen, Katie Doak, Rachel Huhn, and Dr. Leslie Rigg. The SHS students came in second at Technovation challenge.
WalkAble is a cellphone application created by four female computer science students at Strathmore High School. Together after over four months of hard work, designing, creating, marketing, and consulting with business mentors, Katie Doak, Kaila Estall, Emma Ewashen and Rachel Huhn attended the University of Calgary’s regional competition called Technovation.
The students, who are taught by Strathmore High School Computer Science instructor Ed Eberts, took home second place for their app.
“I heard about this program from a professional association,” said Eberts.
He explained that the Technovation Challenge is to help encourage girls in junior and senior high to take part in the information technology field.
“It’s not just about coding, it’s also about business because the project that they had to do was develop an app, but also they had to market it, and create a business around it,” he said.
“If you have an app, that’s just one part of the puzzle you actually have to market it, and come up with a name and a logo too,” he said.
The 2017 Technovation challenge is meant to help spark innovation in the field of information technology for young women.
Eberts explained that the local girls faced a challenge right from the beginning as they are located in Strathmore and the challenge is in Calgary.
The team was matched with mentors from the business community in October and from there in January they had their first meeting at the University of Calgary.
Because of their location, the team held several Skype, or Google hangout meetings over the Internet with their mentors each week and every other Saturday mentors would travel to Strathmore High School to meet with the group for several hours. This was made particularly difficult with the frigid weather over winter.
“We had our final pitch even on Saturday the 13th but we have been working on our app for four months,” explained Grade 11 student Katie Doak.
“I had experience in coding before, but the business aspect of it, that was brand new for every single one of us, so it was a learning curve right there,” she said.
“It was really fun, I’ve never used App Inventor before, which was the platform we used to code it, so it was a lot of new learning curves for me, but I found it pretty easy it was really fun learning how it worked,” said Emma Ewashen.
Each of the members of the team had their own responsibilities. Huhn was the main writer and graphic designer for the logo. Doak was the lead programmer and coder, Ewashen created the user interface and designed the look of the app’s features and Estall worked on the business plan, financials and marketing.
“We had three business mentors and one technical mentor, which was for the coding and they all were there helping us, they also came to the school and worked for hours and every other Saturday,” said Doak.
“The app is aimed for the protection of women and them walking safe,” said Doak.
“When you feel if someone is following you, you can click the button which will contact your contacts that you put in, or you can click a different button and it will contact 911,” she said.
In the future the team plans to look into placing tracking software in the app, so that police can come find the owner of the cellphone should they be missing.
In terms of feedback, Ewashen explained that during the event there was a setup where students had trifolds with displays of each app. The judges were able to move from one display to the next and ask questions.
“Each team had a big trifold board and a table setup around the hall and the mentors went around and the judges looked at it and asked questions,” she said.
It is unclear what the future holds for each of the students. Doak hopes to enter the computer science field as she enjoys working with computers and programming, especially the programming language Java is an interest of hers.
“My favourite one is Java because you have to type everything out yourself, I like the memorizing of it and actually,” she said. As for Ewashen, she’s not too sure if she will study computer science at a post-secondary level.
“I think going into computer science would be really fun, but I’m not sure exactly what aspect of it,” she said.
The Technovation challenge is a international initiative created to engage women in the field of technology.
During the University of Calgary regional challenge, teams are matched with business mentors over a 12-week period. Over that time they create an app and pitch their app to a Dragon’s Den-type panel.
In July, the top teams will be invited to the San Francisco Bay area present their pitches at the Technovation international event.
For more information on the regional Technovation Challenge at the University of Calgary, please visit ucalgary.ca, or check out the pitch on YouTube.