Last week, it was made known that a group of five Nigerian schoolgirls was competing in Silicon Valley as the only African side in this year’s Technovation Challenge finals — the Technvation World Pitch.
Team Brain Squad, as they call themselves, were looking to follow in the footsteps of last year’s surprise winners, Team Save-a-Soul; another Nigerian side that saw off competition from teams from around the globe on their way to claiming the gold in the global competition organised for young girls.
Team Brain Squad comprised Ayomikun Ariyo, Ivana Mordi, Jadesola Kassim, Munachiso Chigbo and Pandora Onyedire — all Grade Six students of Standard Bearers School in Lagos, Nigeria — and they had cruised their way to the finals after coming out tops at the State, Regional, and National levels of the competition.
Inspired by a tragic incident that occurred in Lagos early this year where many children lost their lives after a school building collapsed, the girls had developed an impressive fundraising app called “Hands Out” that would make it easy for people to make donations to help the needy pay for school fees, food, shoes, books, stationery, medication and more. And their innovation had earned them a place in the finals of this year’s Technovation Challenge.
Many had tipped them to pull off a Team Save-a-Soul by going all the way and the girls had every right to dream. But in the end, they could only manage to come away with the People’s Choice Award, having lost out to teams from India and Cambodia in the junior division.
The annual Technovation Challenge encourages young girls all over the world to develop technologies that can tackle real-life problems in their communities. This year was no different with contestants in the junior and senior categories providing innovative solutions to problems like opioid addiction, pollution, insecurity, sexual assault, humanitarian assistance, and access to education.
Expressing her thoughts on the problem-solving ideas pitched at the event, Technovation Founder and CEO, Tara Chklovski said, “It’s always very different from what Silicon Valley thinks is relevant and critical. When else would you get an opportunity to listen to young girls from all around the world, from countries that you would never think are leading technology innovation.
“Every year, we see more and more interesting ideas and higher technical content. And higher technical innovation because these girls are capable of so much. The workforce of the future is one where humans are working alongside machines. So we really need to understand and constantly reevaluate our skills and creativity, bringing core values to innovation,” she added.
The five Nigerian schoolgirls who pitched their Hands Out app were part of the nearly 50 girls who were present at one of the world’s largest tech entrepreneurship programme which took place in the United States.
India’s teamSocial Relay and Cambodia’s Litertree respectively won the first and second position in the Junior Division. Both teams are entitled to up to USD 15 K in scholarship money.
Following a week of online voting, however, the Nigerian team emerged with the People’s Choice Award; implying that they won the hearts of many even though they didn’t ultimately claim the top prize in the competition.