While the tech industry is the pace car leading all other industries in many ways, we lag behind when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Part of the solution is reaching girls early enough to help show them what they can already do – and someday do for a living.
Back in April I was approached about Technovation – an organization comprised of entrepreneurs, mentors and educators who work to teach girls the skills needed to thrive in tech, starting with girls as young as 10 years old. The Minneapolis chapter of Technovation had been working with hundreds of girls around the state for a challenge that would put their skills to the test in a global contest. The competition, Appapalooza, required girls to spend 12 weeks developing and producing an app that would solve an actual problem in their community.
Our good friend Stephanie Hammes-Betti (SVP of Innovation Design at U.S. Bank) put out a call for judges to volunteer for this year’s event, and I jumped at the opportunity. I’m excited to share some thoughts about my experience as a first-time judge for this hugely inspiring event!
Each judge was assigned five 1-5 person teams (with the option to review additional teams if desired). The majority of judging took place remotely; with each volunteer working to evaluate app ideation, technical efficiency and pitch strength. The process was rather in-depth and I was immediately blown away by the wealth of material each team provided.
Not only were the girls expected to submit source code, but their pitch and demo accompaniments were expertly-assembled videos, each paired with a narrative to help demonstrate app-user scenarios. This is a college semester (or more) worth of work, but fully executed in under three-months by girls ages 10 to 14. Impressed yet? The next step was for the girls to pitch their ideas live to a room full of family, teachers and a panel of analytical (but loving) judges.
Saturday, May 11 was the big day for Appapalooza 2019. The Minneapolis Convention Center played host to 348 eager entrants, 87 teams, 86 judges and a slew of Technovation event facilitators. This wasn’t just a big day for Minneapolis, as there were also 18 other Technovation events taking place simultaneously in other cities. Out of all of the teams participating, twelve would advance to the global stage for finals – six teams from the junior division, and six teams from the senior division.
Before the girls gave their presentations, our room’s emcee provided more background on Technovation, and explained how women earn only 18% of computer science degrees. I had no idea! It was later explained that the girls were to imagine that we (the judges) were a panel of venture capitalists. That being said, this wasn’t going to be Shark Tank. The judges, and everyone involved, were encouraging, supportive, positive and genuinely kind.
Each app presentation was seriously mind-blowing. The concepts were diverse, ranging from waste reduction to productivity assistance for area-based charities. Each presentation segment was eight minutes; four minutes for the presentation, and four minutes for judges to ask clarifying questions or offer suggestions.
I was extremely impressed by how each team had refined or prepared entirely new decks that differed from what we had judged remotely weeks prior. Again, the amount of work these girls put into their apps cannot be understated. Even more impressive was how articulate each and every speaker was. All of our questions were answered with confidence, demonstrating a clear understanding of the problem they were trying to solve and the technology used to do it.
In the end, each girl who participated received recognition and thunderous applause for their spectacular achievements. All of these girls are winners regardless of whether or not they advance to the global finals, so to see them each receive a medal was a joy. What was also exciting was to hear how many of the girls expressed an interest in returning for the competition next year.
Technovation are preparing for an even larger pool of entrants next year and I’d love to see the Minneapolis chapter continue receiving support from local volunteers! These girls can be our future colleagues – they can become our future tech leaders. Let’s help inspire them to want to be.
Year-round mountain biking on metro-area singletrack trails!
Luminary Loppet at Theodore Wirth Regional Park. An annual event as part of The Great Northern Festival, it’s a fairly magical celebration and a great way to interact with the great outdoors during winter.
One of the best parts of moving to a new city is exploring it by foot. This is the Riverwalk in Chicago.
We had no idea how to ice fish, but you only turn five once so we bundled up and had an adventure.
Our shanty was at this spot on the lake. It took us 30 minutes to drive out to it. And we almost didn’t make it because our guide was the polar vortex equivalent of a Mad Max character and he insisted driving 60 MPH. We were riding in a Prius so it was difficult to keep up.
2021 Winter (so far) has brought the following…
1. Many hours of iceskating with a shiny pink cast on the wrist of my 9 year old
2. Lots of playing fetch for our lab
3. My first time snowmobiling! (I’m hooked)
No greater way to enjoy Minnesota lakes in a new way than biking on them while frozen.
Winter geocaching is a great way to stay warm and explore favorite places around the city in a new way.
This is benke (pronounced ben•kuh). He's a one year old rescue. He's afraid of big bags and loves cuddling on the couch.
- Travis Meyer
Kuri acts more like a dog than a cat. She once found her way into a drywall resulting in us having to cut through our wall to get her out. She has lived in several countries, and 9 different houses/apartments with me.
- Per Kvanbeck
At the first glance he may appear a tad dopey but once you get to know him you see that his charm is that he is a love-able lug that just wants to be a part of the pack and please his humans. Getting up there in years, you will find him asleep in whatever room the rest of his humans are in.
- Leana Stone
This pair of energetic pups love to bark at seemingly nothing. With kids around and a constant need to eat anything that hits the floor, you will often find Lou with food somewhere in his fur or Winnie with the occasional popcorn bag on her head.
- Joe De Jarnett
Here’s my cool, calm, and collected bunch. This is Nori (a Norfolk Island Pine – left), Dee (a Bird of Paradise – back), and Janet (a Dracaena Janet Craig – right). Despite their tropical roots, they seem to have adjusted nicely to their Minnesota home.
- Kelsey Schwalbach
Cabela enjoys long walks in the park, hunting for pheasants, grouse and crumbs off the floor. She can nap just about anywhere but she is a champion dock jumper. Flying through the air at the ol’ age of 10 just makes makes her feel like a young pup!
- Sarah Bruss
This is Groucho, my adopted stray cat (we checked for previous families), he started following me while I was walking our dog. We fed him for a winter, a summer, and another winter, and only then he finally decided to let us bring him inside. This is a particularly glorious BLEP he gifted me that lasted several minutes.
- David Middlecamp
This is Jerry. I mean what else can I say? We love him and are glad he is fairing well, even while at our Foundry office.
- Foundry Office
Hunter was found alone in the middle of a freeway when she was 8 weeks old. She’s a year and half old german shepherd/chow mix. She enjoys attention more than anything, from dogs, cats, people, you name it, she wants to be your friend. Her favorite toys are extra small...preferably cat toys.
- Mika Albornoz
Meet my dog. She makes no effort to help around the house, and gets depressed on car rides. Her Olympic level shedding is world renowned. When she’s not trying to get me to play instead of work, she sleeps. And sleeps. Her hobbies include barking at people we pass on walks, removing her toys from the bin and evenly distributing around my office, and tricking me into feeding her dinner twice.
- Robert Nelson
As much as I hate to admit it, he runs the house. He even has his own bedroom and sleeps all day on his queen-sized bed. When he’s awake, he wrestles with his brother, but it’s hard to tell whether or not he’s having fun. He also yells at his humans constantly for food when his bowl is clearly full. He won’t eat if he even sees a speck at the bottom of the bowl. You know, cats.
- Ashley Kim
Together with Io and Callisto (Europa's cat siblings) they almost complete the set of Jupiter's four Galilean moons. We Just need Ganymede...
- Nils Hansen
When they’re not chasing each other in circles around the apartment, Oliver enjoys sitting on laps and Rachel enjoys biting feet. Rachel uses her extra thumb to get an exceptionally good grip to scratch furniture, while Oliver prefers to serenade us in the middle of the night with a variety of his greatest hits, including “Mrreeeeww” and “Brrrrwwoowww”.
- Claudio Rivera
This is Podrick. He’s a happy, smart, and stubborn corgi with a passion for blueberries (and anything that his grandma sneaks him, really). He prefers humans over dogs, but he’s pretty good when it comes to the ladies. In his free time, he enjoys destroying toys, harassing his brother, napping on the couch and borking at nonexistent sounds.
- Ashley Kim
No introduction required.
- Evan Kearney
This is Baymax. We have tried multiple times to grow our favorite herbs and have failed miserably... To our rescue is our new buddy, that helps us grow our herbs and vegetables. With Baymax’s help, we hope to have cilantro to add to our dinners!
- Andy Stone