Dana Hall students achieve in the 2016 Technovation Challenge

On May 4, 2016, five teams from Dana Hall competed in the Technovation Challenge Regional Showcase at Microsoft New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge. One team took part in the challenge virtually, while the other four were in Cambridge in person. Dana Hall’s team JAVB placed fifth of the 39 teams competing.

The Technovation challenge is a global entrepreneurship challenge created for girls all over the world in which teams present an application to be used on smartphone devices in order to solve a problem in their community. Math teacher Ms. Anita Lavakumar, who is Dana Hall’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Coordinator, brought Technovation to Dana Hall. She shaped the teams and paired each team with a mentor. For around 12 weeks, 41 Dana Hall students, on 5 different teams, worked to design their applications in time for the conference.

stopliteTeam JAVB created the app StopLite, which helps friends stay in touch when they are in social environments where they could find themselves uncomfortable. The app allows friends at a party together to send status updates, including changing one’s status to red to indicate that one is in danger and needs one’s friends. (See the pitch for the app here.) This app is already available on the App Store, and Vietta Kuntz ’19 commented that “while the process of trying to design Stoplite was sometimes challenging, reaching certain landmarks in the process, such as creating the concept, finishing the business plan, finishing programming the app, and finally getting it put up on the App Store, brought a real sense of accomplishment to [the] team.”

Another team, Makel, created a fitness app for kids to get moving and to have fun while doing so. “Something that we overcame was scheduling and accommodating everyone’s ideas, working everybody’s ideas into one app, and making sure that everyone felt heard,” remarked team member Katharine Cabot ’17. “However, our team was able to come together and discuss what they wanted the application to have, and once we did that, we were able to narrow our ideas,” added Eva Willard Baur ’17. The team, which also consisted of Ally Wolfe ‘17, Julia Lawrence ’17, and Molly Madden ’17, worked weekly with mentor Amy Sarli. Team Makel stressed that in order to finish the challenge, it was fundamental to assign each teammate a job that reflected their strengths.

Finding a time to meet outside of school and extracurriculars to complete their Technovation work was difficult. Bauer commented that “[we] learned that it takes so much hard work to be an entrepreneur, while also expanding [our] skills in time management, programming, and leadership.”

No team from Dana Hall advanced from the preliminary finals, but this year’s team members already have their eye on next year. Team JAVB is currently planning on “adding new features to the app, and [the] team is already [coming] up with an idea for next year’s Technovation challenge,” according to Kuntz. Baur’s advice to future participants is to “make sure you are really dedicated to it, and that you are all on the same page in order to focus and commit to creating your idea.”

The winner of the preliminary finals is sent to the next round of finals, with the hope of being 1 of 10 teams to be selected to go to Silicon Valley for the final competition. The winning team will be granted $10,000 to start up their application.

The Technovation challenge was initiated in 2009 by Dr. Anu Tewary, who was inspired by a Start Up convention she had attended in San Francisco. According to Zoominfo, Dr. Tewary’s hope was for “young women from all over the world to identify and solve problems in their local communities by developing mobile app prototypes and business plans.”

Image: A screenshot of the StopLite app from the App Store.

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