The trick to increasing the underrepresented groups in tech is to make sure they get an invitation to be part of the tech community.
By Jennifer Arguello (Co-Founder, Latino Startup Alliance)
“Ever want to start programming or understand startups more and just not know where to start?”
That was the line I used to pitch TEKD at the AT&T Hackathon for Social Good.
I envisioned TEKD as a fun mobile app to help folks reach their tech education goals, whether that is to learn to code, find a community to hack with, or volunteer for a program. The initiative behind this app is the need to create more awareness and visibility of educational programs in technology for underrepresented groups in the United States, especially underrepresented youth.
The problem with technology inclusion for underrepresented groups is that many people do not know where to start. Thankfully, there are many high quality programs emerging right now such as Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, Spark America, Technovation Challenge and many more.
However, if you do not have someone in your family or network then it may be a challenge to find these programs and exert yourself if there is no support group.
As the founder of Code Scouts told me, “It is about getting an invitation to be part of the tech community.” Connect to Tech will hopefully serve as a way to be invited or at least know where the parties are at.
I started thinking about how we could build a fun experience that is a platform for the community of learners and the education providers to come together. Just building a boring database with a web front end was not appealing and thankfully there was a hackathon coming up so we could build an MVP.
Back to the hackathon…
AT&T Hackthons are pretty intense. Friday night you hear from all these sponsoring companies. People then pitch their ideas and you get to work while the senseis, company representatives, walk around and help teams. With a high level idea in mind of building a fun mobile app to engage learners, some Latino Startup Alliance folks got to brainstorming. We had Jesus, Ed, Ro-el, and myself bouncing around ideas of how we could build an app that used games to assess what kind of learning classes or programs would be best suited for the child.
Essentially, we wanted to build an interactive recommendation system. We knew for this app to be successful, we needed a sticky way to keep a child engaged or else he or she would not want to use it. We had grand ideas of how we were going to create a game where a kid played the parent and the data gathered would help select a program for the kid. We could do that in less than 12 hours right?
Ha! A night of sleep cleared our heads! We decided Saturday morning, the main point was to show a recommendation system that helped map classes to the learner and we needed a simple enough use case to build in just one day. Another trick to these hackathons is to utilize your sinseis and the sponsoring companies. It’s like having an expert on your team to help you.
We settled on the use case of Lupe. She’s a 27 year old social media professional who wants to make her own website, but does not know where to start to learn the skills she needs. Looking at the sponsoring companies we quickly assessed how to implement this use case and leverage the technologies available.
For creating an app quickly, Tiggzi was our best bet. It’s a drag and drop interface to build mobile apps. Tout, was one of the sponsoring companies, which is an app to create 15 second videos and post to your social networks or embed in your app.
We decided we could create an app that would collect some demographic data and then show short videos of different learning environments. The user could pick the learning environment type they preferred. The app would then serve up a list of programs best suited for them. For the user database and the database of tech ed programs, we picked Apigee, since it had integration with Tiggzi. Lastly, we spoke more with Michelle from the Keen.io team and she gave us great ideas on how we could use their analytics platform to create useful dashboards for our app.
Ro-el and I created the interaction flow and handed it off to Ed to build it in Tiggzi. We put the senseis to work! First Jeremia from Tout and a rep from Tiggzi helped integrate Tout into Tiggzi. Next we had the Tiggzi rep work with the Keen.io API author to integrate Keen.io. Then at some point we had the Apigee and Tiggzi senseis working together to integrate Apigee.
We were jamming. Ro-el designed and built out the user interface, Ed was doing all the integrations, and I was creating the data models and doing customer validation to make sure the app was serving a real need. It was a bit tight, but we finished in time with bugs, but we had at least one working path for the demo. A special thanks goes to Michelle and the Keen.io team who not only helped integrate the API, but Michelle stuck around with us all day to help build a dashboard and the Keen.io team starred in one of our learning environment videos!
Our demo went well. We ended up winning one of the drones from the Keen.io team and a year subscription to Tiggzi! WOOT! Plus we met a lot of folks who liked the idea and wanted to know what was its future.
This is only the beginning for a larger platform which will bring together learners and educators. This will become a 4th quarter project for me and hopefully some of the Latino Startup Alliance folks. In the end, it is about building an inclusive tech community. At this time, we definitely want to collect as many profiles of tech education programs out there so we can make sure they are in the app – click here to contribute.
If you’d like to learn more about this project, feel free to reach out to me at jennifer at latinostartupalliance dot org.
This post was originally posted at Jennifer Arguello’s blog.
Women 2.0 readers: What startup idea have you launched out of a hackathon like AT&T Social Good Hackathon?
About the guest blogger: Jennifer Arguello is Co-Founder of Latino Startup Alliance, a community of Latino tech entrepreneurs. She serves on the national board of directors for Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the largest organization of Latinos in STEM in the U.S. A Silicon Valley native, she has been working in the tech field for over 12 years and is alumnus of Mozilla and Microsoft along with various startups. Jennifer holds a B.S. in Computer Science from UC San Diego. Follow her on Twitter at @engijen.