Q: First tell us about yourself and the path that led you to Technovation/Iridescent.
Jaris: I joined Iridescent two years ago as the Disseminations Coordinator -- a role that includes many responsibilities for many audiences. One of those audiences is the Technovation community, a group of passionate, dedicated people all working to support girls and women to pursue interests related to technology and entrepreneurship all over the world. This broad reach comes with plenty of complications, but it is always, always rewarding.
Q: Tell us about Iridescent as an organization: creation, mission and a few of its programs.
Jaris: Iridescent is a science education non-profit working to help children develop the critical thinking skills and abilities necessary to long-term success. Through our programming we connect scientists and engineers directly to underserved and underrepresented families so that these groups can get to know each other better, learn from each other and respect each other’s perspectives, and work to foster greater creativity, curiosity, and persistence in students all over the world. In short, we provide access to high-quality science experiences for families to learn together by doing.
Iridescent has two main programs - Curiosity Machine and Technovation. Although both are built around STEM mentorship, Curiosity Machine is focused on physics and engineering content taught through hands-on "engineering design challenges" while Technovation focuses on computer science and entrepreneurship. Additionally, Technovation serves middle school and high school girls, as well as professional women.
Q: Can you please tell about Technovation: What is it, who created it, why was it created, and who does it serve (who can compete in it)?
Jaris: Technovation is the world’s largest and longest-running tech competition for girls. Through Technovation, teams of young women identify a problem, create an app to solve it, code the app, build a company to launch the app in the market, and pitch their plan to experts -- all in 3 months.
Anuranjita Tewary, Ph.D., founded Technovation after attending Startup Weekend and noticing the dearth of female participants-- she wanted to offer young women the opportunity to become high-tech entrepreneurs early in their careers. In 2010 Dr. Tewary partnered with Iridescent to pilot the first Technovation program in Mountain View, California. Since that very first cohort of 50 girls in 2010, Technovation has grown into a global competition.
The competition component of Technovation is open to young women ages 10-18, although anyone can access the curriculum for free.
Q: Tell us about the teams competing in this challenge, where do they come from?
Jaris: Teams participate in Technovation from all over the world. In 2015, 1,500 girls from 26 countries submitted complete proposals to the program. Girls come from all kinds of schools and after-school programs, and have a wide range of experience with technology, computer science, and entrepreneurship.
Q: What challenges does Technovation is currently facing?
Jaris: Currently we're working to reach more students, mentors, coaches and ambassadors than ever before, in more places than ever before. We want to reach as many young (and professional!) women as we can and inspire them to solve problems in their communities using technology. This year we are working to improve our resources for coaches and mentors to better support the amazing teachers and professionals who volunteer their time to support Technovation teams over 3 months (and often longer).
Q: What is next for Technovation?
Jaris: Reaching more young women all over the world, improving our curriculum, improving our support networks for participants, past, present and future.
Q: Finally, how can policymakers and their partners increase the participation of girls and women worldwide in STEM at all levels from studies, businesses, academia and other professions?
Jaris: Policymakers and partners can increase the participation of girls and women worldwide by inviting them to the table and making sure their voices are heard. One of the most powerful moments in the 2015 season is captured in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE1mZQbpQzI) of a mentor explaining that her responsibility isn't to provide technical knowledge to her team, but rather to show them that they belong in a professional setting, that their ideas have merit, and that they are capable of achieving great things.
Policymakers and partners can ensure that girls and women have safe spaces to learn and explore and talk to one another, and that their voices, opinions, and ideas are heard at all levels.
In short, by providing better support to young women and girls from an earlier age.