Inspirational Experiences from the Technovation World Pitch Summit

Part 3: This is the third part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco for the 2016 Technovation World Pitch Summit. The first and second parts of this series were shared earlier this week.

From Moldova we had 3 different programs going on during the Technovation World Pitch Summit. I was attending training for the new Master Educator program while another girl was attending a similar and new training but for Student Ambassadors. We met with others from around the globe and discussed how we can grow the programs in our respective countries and learn from one another. In addition, we had a group of girls from Moldova attending as a visiting team, they had won the regional pitch event and as the grand prize they advanced to the semi-final round and had the opportunity to attend the Technovation World Pitch event along with their mentor. All of this was possible thanks to local generous sponsors Girls Go IT, Sun Communications, Tekwill and the many individuals who supported the Indiegogo campaign. You can read more about their app idea here from a previous post. We’ll be sharing more in detail about all the “cool” things the girls from the visiting team had the opportunity to see and experience.

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All of us sporting the new Technovation Moldova t-shirts before departing for San Francisco.

The first part of the World Pitch Summit started with a tour of the city for the girls from the visiting team. They visited the Golden Gate Bridge, the De Young Museum, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Crookedest street. Time during which the girls had the chance to interact with all the other visiting teams and the Technovation staff.

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All of the girls and mentors between the visiting teams and finalist teams from all over the world.

The first day ended with a panel discussion at Twitter where 6 successful women from project managers to programmers and engineers shared their professional paths that got them to Twitter. Most importantly, they advised the girls on future steps to take in order to build stronger CVs.

The second day of the Conference was all about Silicon Valley and inspiration. The girls started with a trip to Intuitive Surgical, a company that designs and produces surgical robots. They got to try using a robot and to see how it is produced giving them more insights into operation processes.

The day continued with a programming workshop at Intel.

Next in line were a couple of workshops at Yahoo, where the girls got useful insights about their app’s design and accessibility.

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The girls are having their app tested and were given feedback on ways to improve it for useability

In the evening, the girls attended the World Pitch Conference where they met the finalists and had the chance to talk with them about their apps and business ideas they developed.

But the learning didn’t stop here. The following day, the girls attended 2 workshops of their own preference. They had a list of choices including a Women in Tech Panel; Enabling Voice Driven Smart Home Experiences with Amazon Alexa; How to Tell a Visual Story; Imagination in Virtual Reality; Technovation Alumni Panel; Data Science: Finding Hidden Treasures in Piles of Messy, Chaotic Data; Python and the Twitter API; and Meaningful User Journeys.

One of the girls, Sanda shared with us about one of the workshops she attended; the panel of Women in Tech. During this panel she met some amazing women whose careers were connected to technology or entrepreneurship and they gave advice and shared their stories. Some of the things she had learned and taken from this unique panel of women included “Life is a journey and every moment in life is teachable.” Also that “Failure is a part of success.”

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The conference ended with leading to the evening of the World Pitch Event that was open to the public. The girls from the visiting teams along with the finalists teams had the chance to showcase their app ideas during a table-top exhibit. The girls did an amazing job with their table-top presentation and interacting with all the people that came by to learn more about their idea.

The World Pitch Summit ended with an extraordinary breakfast at Autodesk, where besides saying goodbye to all the participants the girls had the opportunity to discover more technologies and innovations in different industries, sports, medicine, constructions, cars, physics and many more.

On the last day before leaving for Moldova the girls were able to make a quick visit to the California Academy of Sciences. The girls saw a planetarium and an aquarium for the first time. They found the experience to be very enlightening.

The girls are grateful for the opportunity to have been able to meet others in the tech industry and see places and experience things they dreamed of. They are eager to continue to learn and further develop the Technovation community in Moldova. We look forward to the year ahead as they inspire others to continue to learn and grow and look at things in a new way.

Coming up over the next couple of weeks – interviews from the girls and their mentor!

Special thanks to Ana Efros, the girls’ mentor for helping to write this post.

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Exploring San Francisco through a different perspective

Part 2: This is the second part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco for the Technovation World Pitch Summit. The previous and first part was shared earlier this week. Now we’ll get into details of exploring San Francisco through the perspective of the Moldovan girls during their free time before and after the Summit.

Since the girls had a little free time they got to meet some returned Peace Corps volunteers who had previously served in Moldova. They graciously took them around the city for a tour and had them try some different foods than they’re used to.

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Dinner with some returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) from Moldova. Which kind of pizza did the girls like better, NY Style pizza or Chicago Style Pizza?

A ride through San Francisco on the cable car was a must-do and fun highlight thanks to the wonderful RPCV guides…

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Photo from the cable car of another cable car and the Bay. Photo by Ana Efros

The girls visited the beach, which for some of them it was the very first time seeing the ocean (!)…

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Technovation Moldova goes to the beach along the Pacific ocean. Photo by Ana Efros

It was a beautiful day to explore the beautiful parks that San Francisco has to offer…

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The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Photo by Ana Efros

There was a lot of walking throughout the city as the fog rolled in at various points of the day and evening…

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The view from one of the hills in the city with the fog rolling in. Photo by Ana Efros

On our departure day we had some time before needing to go to the airport to start our return trip home to Moldova, so we visited the California Academy of Sciences. The girls were amazed as it was their first time seeing such a place. It included a planetarium, aquarium, rain forest, and interactive exhibits which they thoroughly enjoyed. It was a great way to end the journey as they explored the exhibits.

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Being awed by the aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences.

They even had an opportunity to meet a Moldovan woman who lives near San Francisco who heard they were visiting and connected with them right before leaving for the airport.

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Connecting in San Francisco and being able to speak Romanian.

It was an amazingly incredible experience to see so many things through the girls’ perspectives – many firsts, thoughtful insights, and shifts in understanding. They saw new things, tasted new foods, experienced new ways of transport, and met new people.

This would not have been possible without the many partners, organizations, businesses, individuals, and RPCVs who made this happen especially Girls Go IT, Sun Communications, Tekwill and the Technovation organizing core team from Moldova. Also, of course thanks to the Technovation team for coordinating all the details and making the World Pitch Summit an amazing educational and inspirational event for all!

In the next post we will share more about the fascinating things and opportunities the girls had the chance to participate in and experience at the Technovation World Pitch Summit. It’s pretty interesting, so don’t miss it!

 

A Whirlwind Visit to San Francisco with Moldovan Girls

I recently returned from a week-long trip in San Francisco along with 4 Moldovan girls and their amazing mentor. This is will be the first part of a series about our recent journey to San Francisco from Moldova. There is so much to share and it would have been a really long blog post, so I’ll be sharing it in a few parts along with some follow-up interviews with some of the girls later.

For some of them this was their first time flying on an airplane, as well as their first time being in the US. So I had the opportunity to see so many things through their eyes for the first time.

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First time flying on an airplane…

Although we were all there for Technovation, it was a bit different schedule for all of us throughout the week.

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All of us at the final pitch event at Intuit in Mountain View, CA.

Moldova had a visiting team attending the Technovation World Pitch Summit they got to connect with the competition finalist teams as well as 5 other visiting teams from around the globe. The finalist teams were from USA, Canada, Mexico, Kenya, India, Kazakhstan, and Cameroon while the visiting teams included Uganda, Australia, Tunisia, and of course Moldova. The girls made new friends and learned a lot of new things about the cultural differences and similarities between them.

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Diana with some of the girls from Tunisia. (photo from Diana Marusic)

There was also an 18 year old student ambassador representing Moldova who was able to connect with 14 other student ambassadors from around the world. Their goal is to continue to develop and promote the Technovation program in their communities and gather more girls interest.

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First time flying on an airplane…

As for me, I was attending as part of the new Technovation Master Educator program along with 30 other educators from around the world. We went through a great collaborative training that helped set us up for the next 2 years of expanding Technovation within our communities. I enjoyed getting to know the other educators representing various parts of the world including Uganda, Bolivia, Mexico, Palestine, Turkey, Peru, Canada, Tunisia, Cameroon, Australia, Nigeria, Spain, India, South Africa, Rwanda, UK, Vanuatu, Cambodia, Morocco, Rep. of Georgia, Moldova and USA. I wish we would have had more time to spend together in person as it was a valuable resource to discuss similarities and differences of working with teams in our communities.

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All of the Master Educators (promoting Morocco’s eSTEM program) [photo from Ayoub Rahmouni]
It was an incredible experience. Visiting San Francisco and even California was a first for me and I LOVED it. It was an amazing opportunity as it opened the girls’ minds even further into the field of technology. They got to meet women working in Silicon Valley who shared their stories about their journey within the tech industry. They had the chance to attend hands-on workshops and to discuss their app idea with other teams and professionals in the industry.

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The girls at Yahoo discussing their app with other girls. (photo from Ana Efros)

These impressions will last a lifetime and I can see first-hand the impact it has had on them and how they will be able to take this and share it with so many other girls and their peers to inspire them in their futures as well.

I will be sharing more details over the next couple of days/weeks about this experience and the insights shared by the girls about their experience. Stay tuned, more to come soon!

A huge THANK YOU to the Technovation and Iridescent staff and all the sponsors who made this all possible in addition to the local partners Girls Go IT, Tekwill, and Sun Communications along with all the Indiegogo campaign funders who made it possible for the girls from Moldova to attend! 

My bags are packed & I’m ready to go…

Where to now?
My bags are packed, and I’m ready to go!  I’m heading to the US for the first time in 2 years! But… I won’t be going home to Pennsylvania just yet…
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I have the amazing opportunity to travel to San Francisco for about a week for training for the inaugural Master Educator program with Technovation. It just so happens that the training will be happening at the 2016 World Pitch Summit. That means I’ll be in San Francisco at the same time as the girls who are participating as a visiting team to attend this global event. I’m thrilled to be able to experience this along with them!

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Also, in addition to the visiting team, a girl from Moldova was selected to participate in the first-ever student ambassador program and will be attending a similar training in San Francisco at the same time. We’ll be traveling together and she’ll be experiencing her first plane ride and probably by the end of the week she’ll be tired of my jokes.

I’m so excited for this opportunity especially for all the girls and their mentor. For most of the girls this is their first time flying on an airplane and traveling to the US. Plus, they’ll get to connect with many new people from all over the world in addition to learning all sorts of new things relating to technology.

What will the girls be doing at this event?
The girls will be participating as a visiting team, which is possible thanks to the amazing local partner sponsors: Girls Go IT, Sun Communications, and Tekwill. Also possible thanks to the many individuals near and far that made it a reality through the fundraising campaign that was launched a few months ago. As a visiting team, they get to attend the World Pitch Summit just like the 10 finalists teams except they won’t be pitching their app idea. They’ll be one of 7 visiting teams from around the world who will get to meet other inspiring girls who are interested in tech and have the opportunity to build connections with other teams and learn from one another. The girls will also get to tour tech companies in Silicon Valley and also will share their app idea during the showcase event (like a tabletop expo). In addition to this, we hope to be able to connect them with some women in the tech industry who are from Moldova as well, but those details have still yet to be worked out.

What will I be doing?
As for me, I’ll be attending a training for the new Master Educator program where I’ll get to meet other Master Educators from all over the world to connect and collaborate on ideas and ways to encourage and engage girls in the Technovation program. I’m looking forward to meeting them all and learning from them! I’ll also get to attend the World Pitch event and see the top 10 finalists teams pitch their app ideas. The results will be announced the following day, in addition to hearing from keynote speaker, Debbie Sterling, Founder and CEO of Goldieblox (if you hadn’t heard of her and this product yet, you should check it out!)

What’s for the future?
So then, what? All of this is great, super exciting and full of all sorts of connecting and learning for all of us. The girls from the visiting team will take away ideas on how to improve their app idea and will be part of the 2017 edition of Technovation in Moldova. Then, both the student ambassador and I will take from the training’s an action plan for the year ahead for Moldova along with lots of ideas from others on what has worked or not worked for them in their communities. We’ll work on implementing them starting in the fall. I’ll share more about the work I’ll be doing in the next year ahead another time, but as you can see from this, Technovation Challenge will still be a part it. 🙂

I’ll share more once we return from San Francisco!

Meet Team “Girls in the Power”

I’ve had the great opportunity to directly work with 2-3 Technovation Challenge teams over the past 2 years during my Peace Corps service. This past year I worked with the team, “Girls in the Power” from Balti composed of 4 high school girls and an amazing computer teacher from their school.

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Team “Girls in the Power”: Valeria, Patrisia, Mrs. Inna, Catalina, myself, and Iulia

For most of the girls who were between 14-16 years old, this was their first time doing anything like this and working together as a team. Their computer teacher, Mrs. Inna has been teaching for a total of 10 years in informatics and this was also her first time to experience a program like this as well.

Technovation Challenge is the largest and longest-running tech competition for girls. In Moldova this is the 3rd year it has been happening here. For 12-weeks, girls ages 10-18 go through a curriculum with a mentor or coach. They learn how to identify a problem in their community and figure out a solution by creating a business plan and mobile app. Plus, all of this is done in English! An incredible challenge since for many of them all of these things are new to them.

The girls from “Girls in the Power” created a business plan and designed an app called ‘Emotional Test’ to address some of the problems teenagers face, such as difficult communication with adults, misunderstandings with their peers, dependence from the virtual world, desires to be confirmed by society and lack of trust, etc. Teen suicide is on the rise in Moldova, and girls are even more affected than boys. The app they created proposed a test to identify one’s emotional state and offers advice based on the results.

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I met with the girls and Mrs. Inna a few weeks after this year’s program and local competition. We celebrated the end of the school year and all that they had learned and accomplished since we first met in January.

I asked them a few questions as we reflected over the past couple of months during the Technovation Challenge program.

Q: What did you learn from Technovation? 

“I learned how to work in a team, to be more careful about small details, and patience.”  – Catalina

“I learned interesting information from the psychologist we worked with. Also I learned how to make a business plan and how to make it interesting with info-graphics.” – Patrisia

“I learned about how to use a new program like AppInventor.” – Mrs. Inna

Q: What was the most challenging part? 

“The most challenging part was working in a group and trying to implement the database into our app.” – Iulia 

“Working in English was really challenging, but it helped us!” – Valeria & Patrisia

“It was challenging to prepare our presentation in English.” – Patrisia & Catalina

To note: For most of these girls they have never before presented in front of a large group of people nor have they done so in English. 

Q: What was fun about Technovation? 

“To immediately see the end result of making an app using AppInventor and the end result of everything when it all came together.” – Catalina

“To be able to see the results immediately after the girls did something in their project.” – Mrs. Inna

Q: Tell me something interesting or funny about when you were working on your project together…

“I learned how important it is to make sure you save your work. One day I was working on our app in the AppInventor program and we lost all the information I had just done. I had to rebuild it all over again. It was a hard lesson to learn.” – Catalina

“We had fun, we took time to dance together during our breaks (laughter).” – All

“It was a great experience and very interesting to go to the Moldova ICT Summit to learn about ICT in education in Moldova and to share about our experience.” – All 

Q: What do you hope to do now after going through this experience?

“To take time to keep learning new things.” – Patrisia, Catalina

“We want to go to the Girls Go IT camp and to keep learning!” – All 


They created a pitch video and demo video for their project…

Pitch Video:

Demo Video:

It has been a joy to get to know these girls and Mrs. Inna during the Technovation Challenge program this year. For me, I watched their confidence soar as they learned new things together. My favorite moments were when they would exclaim out loud their excitement when accomplishing something new or seeing the results of their work immediately. To me, that’s what this program is all about in how these girls are gaining the confidence and interest in considering the field of technology whether it be on the front end with design or as a computer programmer. I look forward to seeing what each of these them does and where they go in the future! Bravo fete! Keep going!

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All of us together at the Moldova ICT Summit.

Hey, April & May!

I like to do these monthly recaps, mostly for myself so I can reflect back on what happened each month for me. Time seems to move at a fast-paced warped speed for me lately. I find it difficult to wrap my head around that summer is finally here and it’s about time to say goodbye to some PCV friends very soon.

As I look back to the calendar in April, it was full of Technovation Challenge meetings along with the weekly tech club meetings that I had been working on with a site mate.

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Some of the girls working on their project along with their mentor/coach and teacher.

I even took a last minute vacation to Prague and got some time to recharge and explore a new city with a friend and fellow volunteer.

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One weekend I got to hang out with a lovely group of ladies for a retreat getaway. Hooray for the most ideal location near the gelato place!

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We’ll take a selfie, except I won’t include myself.

Our M29 PCV group had our Close of Service (COS) Conference for a few days which was a great chance to have a last hurrah where we were all together one last time. And of course, to learn all about the COS stuff we need to do before becoming officially Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV).

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Those of us M29s remaining at COS conference.

At the end of April, we had a big event for Technovation Challenge where teams from all over Moldova came to pitch their ideas and apps. It was a lot of work to pull this together and there was no way it could have been done without an incredible team (who even sometimes joined me in my late-night working sessions). 😉

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Presenting the award to the girls who won the local event in Moldova.

 

 

A few days later I then attended the Moldova ICT Summit where I even participated in a panel sharing about the Technovation Challenge program along with some amazing ladies who shared their experience.

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On stage with the team I worked with this year along with 2 girls from the Girls Go IT summer camp.

Whew…. April. Wow. 

May started out right away with the Easter holiday on May 1 where I got to spend some time with my host family taking part in the cultural traditions.

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Then the day after that I picked up my 2 friends from the US who came to visit for a few days. You can read more about this time from some previous posts and even get a taste for what it would be like if/when you visit.

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At one of the popular Moldovan wineries where you go underground to explore the winery and taste the wine. 

In the midst of many meetings and sharing at a Let Girls Learn training, May was also a busy month that continued with Balti hram, a big muddy concert to see a popular local music group (Carla’s Dreams), and a PCV kick-ball tournament (in which I cheered from the sidelines).

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Thousands of people at the outdoor concert for Carla’s Dreams.

May is looking to be a bit slower as things are finalized for my next steps and wrapping things up with Technovation Challenge for this year. It’s been a busy, but good last couple of months. Onward! Haidem mai departe!

 

 

Encourage Girls from Technovation!

Technovation Challenge is the largest and longest-running tech competition for girls. It entails a 12-week curriculum that girls ages 10-18 go through with a mentor or coach. They learn how to identify a problem in their community and figure out a solution by creating a business plan and mobile app. Plus, all of this is done in English! An incredible challenge since for many of them this is an introduction to new things like writing a business plan, critical thinking through developing a mobile app in AppInventor, and utilizing English (often times their 2nd or 3rd language)!

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Girls from one of the participating teams that I had the opportunity to work with this year.

I had shared a few weeks ago about the Regional Event we hosted in Moldova where a local Moldovan team had advanced to the semi-final round. Thanks to local community support and through a crowdfunding campaign we’re making it possible to send the girls to participate as a visiting team during the World Pitch Event in July in San Francisco.

The girls will have the opportunity to attend the World Pitch Event and participate in learning from workshops, tours of tech companies, and network with other girls from around the world who are problem-solvers from their communities and future women in tech! We still need help in this crowdfunding campaign with about one week left! Give, share, and be part of encouraging girls in developing IT solutions!

Thanks to these awesome local partnering sponsors: Tekwill, Sun Communications, and Girls Go IT all funds will be doubled! So if you give $25… it turns into $50! Viola! >> https://igg.me/at/tech-moldova

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This year has been an incredible year, from the all-star organizing core team, to the mentors/coaches who rose up to the challenge, and all the girls who worked long hours on turning their ideas into reality. By the semi-final round Moldova ended up having 3 teams in the semi-finals! Three! A great accomplishment that all 3 teams should be proud of!

Although the 2016 season for Technovation Challenge Moldova has come to an end for all the teams in this year’s competition, it appears that some teams are still planning on continuing to develop their ideas and mobile apps. We look forward to seeing these girls continue to learn and make their ideas happen!