How five high school girls won Technovation World Pitch 2013 and wowed the judges with an impressive app to solve a real-world problem. 

By Nicole Blandford (Academic Technology Director, Nightingale-Bamford School) and Dan Ristea (Technology Specialist, Nightingale-Bamford School)

What began as a simple computer science project by Hope Jin, a junior at the Nightingale-Bamford School in New York, NY, ended with a team of five girls celebrating at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, after taking first place in the Technovation World Pitch 2013, the longest-running international app development competition for girls. Joining Hope from Nightingale were senior Alex Damley-Strnad, junior Emma Chesley, and sophomores Kystal Molina and Graciela Garcia.

The goal of the competition is to solve a problem in each team’s local community. Our girls generated ideas that included an app to assign lunch buddies, online test boards, and a digitized check-in system. Quickly, the check-in system was passed over and discussions continued about other options. Then, on a Wednesday morning Alex Damley-Strnad was running late; a traffic jam in the lobby to swipe plastic ID cards led her back to the idea of the digitized check-in system.

Once the idea was agreed upon, the process of building an app began. Over the course of the next twelve weeks, the girls spent countless hours researching the problem, brainstorming solutions, wireframing, developing a working prototype, testing the app, developing a business plan, and pitching the idea at events including an evening at Thoughtworks and NY Tech Day.

The final product: Arrive, a mobile application allowing students and faculty to check into school using a smart device. The application uses geolocation to track users within 60ft of the school building and then allows them to scan a QR code available at the entrance or within the school building to check in. Administrators can view attendance by class and last name, and parents can choose to receive a text message when their child checks into school. Administrators can also connect to a robot, which the team has built and programmed, to unlock doors from their phone.

Krystal Molina commented, “The Technovation Challenge has taught me that through technology we have the entire world at our fingertips. Technology isn’t only about inventing, but about seeking out issues in a community and finding innovative ways to fix them. Iridescent [the organization sponsoring Technovation] has empowered me and the rest of my team to move forward in the world.”

Graciela Garcia took away that “women have the potential to do just as much as men can, if not more. Melissa Bradley inspired me to go after anything and everything I want, without the fear that women might not be highly represented in certain fields.”

Alex Damley-Strnad summed the experience up well by saying, “Technovation was a project like no other. The fantastic competition we encountered along the way opened our eyes to how much opportunity is available for girls and what it takes to succeed in some of these fields. Team Arrive’s success reinforced the fact that the world of technology is going through a transition period; women are slowly but steadily gaining the confidence and wherewithal to jump into this promising area to make it bigger and better than it ever was before!”

The team will be using the $10,000 first prize award to support the development of Arrive and make it available in the iOS App Store and Android Marketplace.

nicoleAbout the guest bloggers: Nicole Blandford is the Academic Technology Director at the Nightingale-Bamford School, an all-girls K-12 Independent school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Additionally, she is a PhD student at Columbia University where she studies the impact of various types of media on brain development.

dan headhsotDan Ristea is the Technology Specialist at the Nightingale-Bamford School, where he teaches app development, robotics and technology integration. His areas of expertise are software development, curriculum design and technology integration with a focus on mobile learning. Dan served as the faculty advisor for Arrive.