Adrian Shellard for the Faculty of Science
May 9, 2018
Regional pitch competition encourages young women to pursue tech entrepreneurship
On a usually quiet Saturday on campus, the EEEL Building was buzzing with excitement as 13 teams of young innovators and entrepreneurs were ready to battle for top honours in the Technovation Challenge. On May 5, the Faculty of Science hosted its third Technovation Challenge regional pitch competition, which brought the best and brightest young minds together for the end of a 12-week program aimed at encouraging girls to explore technology entrepreneurship.
This year, teams of young women from high schools across Calgary and Strathmore, and the Franklin Ismaili Cultural Centre, used their creativity, ingenuity, and determination to develop solutions to problems they see in our community. Their ideas ranged from an app to guide travellers along their airline journeys, to diabetes management, to mental health support for adolescents. Each team’s profile can be viewed on the faculty’s Technovation web page.
Grand prize recognizes technical foundation, teamwork and communication skills
The grand prize was presented to team Westmount Mild. They developed SILVA, an app that tests the cognitive function of individuals who have chosen to experiment with cannabis. Westmount School students are pictured below, from left: Zainab Ali, Sheridan Feucht, Christine Kim, Izzah Khairi, and Agam Aulakh, were mentored by Tara Kazemi and Sharon Wang, along with their teacher Thomas Currie.
"It was a really tough competition. It was an honour to participate, and to win just exceeded our expectations. I knew these girls were stand-outs and I'm very proud of all the teams here," says Tara Kazemi, business mentor for the winning team.
Team Westmount Mild and runner-up team Imperium from Webber Academy High School move to an online judging process for the semifinals in June. In August, Technovation will select top teams to compete at the World Pitch Summit in Silicon Valley.
"The Faculty of Science is proud to champion Technovation,” says Steven Vamosi, associate dean, diversity, equity and inclusion. “I believe innovation and entrepreneurship have a bright future in Calgary and I see young women being leaders in this movement. If three months can get 15- to 17-year-olds to deliver the quality of pitches and products we saw today, imagine what they could accomplish in a career in tech.”
Mea Wang, Technovation program co-ordinator and assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, says the program helps spark female students’ interest in technology, an area where women remain outnumbered.
Distinguished alumna Anar Simpson, BSc'86, MCS'01, jumped headfirst into addressing this issue when she founded her own company in Silicon Valley — much like Technovation encourages girls to do. As the global ambassador with Technovation, Simpson has helped grow Technovation to 78 countries.
With encouragement and support from Simpson, Wang has spearheaded the Technovation program at the University of Calgary. “We want to empower our young ladies, by showing the community that girls can do technology as well,” Wang says.
Technovation Calgary regional pitch results
- SILVA (Westmount School): Grand prize
The grand prize was provided by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, and allows the girls to continue exploring their tech talents. It includes tickets to the SozenTech iOS Fundamentals: Workshops and Boot Camp, and tickets to the Geeky Summit Conference for the entire team.
- Voices (Webber Academy High School): Runner-up
The team from Webber Academy High School receives tickets to the SozenTech iOS Fundamentals Workshops and Boot Camp, provided by the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.
- Artropolis YYC (John G. Diefenbaker High School): NRC Sponsor prize
The team receives professional consultation for startup and 10 hours of innovation coaching and support over six months.
- Fly Away (Bishop Carroll High School): Market Grade Sponsor Prize
The team receives an initial consultation with Market Grade