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"We’re just High School kids, what can we do about it?": SheHacks 1.0

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"We’re just High School kids, what can we do about it?": SheHacks 1.0

Looking around their Computer Science classes, a group of five High School girls, Jaanvi Chopra, Jamie Lin, Disha Mohta, Tanisha Sethi and Gaurika Sawheny, couldn’t help but notice that the number of female students was incredibly low. Despite feeling discouraged and outnumbered, the girls started brainstorming during their after-school activity, Girls in Tech, at the IDEAS Hub, about what they could do to change things.

Working with the IDEAS Hub Manager, Colin Peters, the girls designed SheHacks - an all-female hackathon for beginners, designed to inspire, empower and unite girls to pursue computer science.

Jaanvi said, “At first I was really skeptical, and I thought ‘We’re just High School kids, what can we do about it?’". But with Colin’s support and boundless enthusiasm, the project was launched.

Sponsors and mentors from Google, JP Morgan, ThoughtWorks and Visa quickly came aboard, donating space, food and time. Initially, signups from participants was slow, but when a social media influencer posted about the event, the team were overwhelmed with registrations. And after months of planning, despite last-minute legal and child safeguarding obstacles, and facing criticism from fellow students about the all-female nature of the event, the hackathon was held at Google’s Singapore offices 23-24 February with over 90 participants from schools across Singapore.  

The theme of SheHacks was ‘Empowerment’ and unlike other hackathons, SheHacks was open to female students even if they had never coded before. Workshops were offered to introduce attendees to the basics of coding, called ‘101s’, as well as more advanced sessions, including ‘MIT App Inventor’ and “iOS Development’. With the help of an impressive slate of female mentors from across the tech industry, attendees learned how to put together a pitch, and had the chance to present their idea to the crowd by the end of the weekend. Winning teams won prizes of Amazon Echo Dots and Amazon gift cards.

By all accounts, the event was a roaring success and the team looks forward to SheHacks 2.0. For student organiser, Jaanvi, one of the most exciting outcomes of the project was the creation of a strong female coding community at UWCSEA; empowering, motivating and supporting each other.

As Jaanvi said, “It’s my passion to show other girls that anything is possible. Even in our well off society, there is still a stigma about doing STEM, and I want to tell other girls to forget that and do what you love. Ignore the comments that limit you, such as ‘She’s such a nerd.” and do you what you want. I want other girls to find the happiness, excitement and passion in coding that I have found. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to do this. And I can’t wait to work on even bigger projects in the future.”
 
Said Gaurika, “I started Girls in Tech after-school activity with an aim to inspire and empower girls like me to follow their passions and not be afraid. There has always been a negative stereotype surrounding women and their success in the technology field and we wanted to make a change. We are taking steps to dispel these misconceptions and provide a platform which encourages and enables girls to explore and embrace the exciting opportunities that the Computer Science field has to offer.”
 
Keep your eye on this powerful group of changemakers!
 
Visit the SheHacks website. Watch the SheHacks Youtube video.
 
The IDEAS Hub at UWCSEA Dover aims to provide a place that inspires and supports our community to explore, innovate, collaborate and create sustainable solutions to shape a better world. Find out more here.

 

13 Mar 2019
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