Technovation is an international program that teaches mobile app development, entrepreneurship, and community engagement to middle and high school girls. MassTLC’s Education Foundation runs the Massachusetts regional competition round, which culminates in a team showcase in May. Last year, over 35 teams participated in the showcase. We were able to send three senior division teams and two junior division teams from Massachusetts to the global semi-finals!
Waltham High School fielded two teams, each of which had the opportunity to work closely with a local tech company whose employees served as mentors. Rocket Software and Care.com share a building in Waltham and collaborated to ensure that both teams had access to subject matter experts. The teams traveled to the companies every other week, an experience that gave them a firsthand feel for working in a tech organization.
Danielle Pike, Waltham High School teacher and Technovation coach, describes the experience and the lessons learned from it.
Waltham’s First Year Competing
Last year Waltham High School competed in the Technovation Challenge for the first time. We had about 15 female students, ranging from sophomores to seniors, attend an introductory meeting at Rocket Software in Waltham in November, and from there, about eight girls expressed interest in participating in the Technovation Challenge.
In January the girls started meeting weekly and split into two teams, based on their interests. One team worked on a volunteer app called Volunteer with Friends. This team, made up of five girls, completed all the requirements for the challenge and participated in the showcase at Wentworth. The other team, made up of three seniors, worked on a city of Waltham app. Although the students in this team did not end up finishing the project, they did work with their mentors on brainstorming and planning their app, and it was an excellent experience for them.
Great Mentorship from Local Companies
We are lucky in Waltham to be surrounded by so many tech companies. Professionals from Rocket Software and Care.com mentored our teams. Every other week during the Technovation season, our teams traveled by bus to the Rocket Software office in Waltham to meet with their mentors. It was such a great experience for the girls to see a tech company up close and to be able to work directly with the professionals there.
Everyone was more than willing to help during the meetings and even in between meetings during the week. Although this was a new experience for us and we did not always have project updates, the subject matter experts at Rocket and Care.com were always excited to work with the teams and continued to push them to succeed.
Our Biggest Challenges
Timing was sometimes a challenge for us. For example, if the bus arrived late, our time at Rocket Software was shortened, and some students had transportation issues or other commitments that prevented them from traveling to Rocket Software. However, despite the girls not always being present, the mentors were great and always willing to help during the meetings and in the week between.
A Positive Experience
Overall it was a positive experience and, considering this is the first time this has been done at Waltham, it went well. The mentors and girls worked well together, and we are in talks to continue our partnership with Rocket and Care.com for the 2017-2018 Technovation season.