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Global program helps local girls get a head start in the computer science industry

Jaclyn Harold
Updated: January 12, 2020 11:38 PM
Created: January 12, 2020 11:34 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- On Saturday, a local group whose goal is to bridge the gender gap in the tech industry, held its kickoff event in Rochester.

Technovation MN hosts middle school and high school girls from all over the region to participate in a 12-week program and introduce them to computer science, "There's been a gap between genders, men and women in the computer science field and it's been mostly male dominated," said Anjali Donthi, program ambassador and participant. The Century High School student has been involved in the organization for a few years, and has even helped rally in other students.

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The global program is working to bridge that gap by introducing girls to computer science at a younger age and giving them the confidence to continue in the industry, "I really enjoy the experience and it's one of my favorite activities every year," said Donthi.

In the kickoff event, the girls were separated into groups according to their school. They were introduced to several non-profit organizations, which is where their app ideas are usually formed, "This is the fifth year that we've had eight to ten to a dozen different non-profit representatives come and talk to the girls and possibly connect them up with some ideas for some of these cellphone apps," said Rich Bogovich, who is one of the core team members of the Rochester program.

After each of the organizations leaders gave a brief explanation of what their non-profit does for the community, the girls were allowed interview blocks with the representatives that peaked their interest. 

"The idea here is to find out not only what they do, but ask them questions that might lead to an idea for a cellphone app," said Bogovich.

Real computer science skills, applied to real issues in the community are both passions of Donthi, and having both of them incorporated in one program is what keeps her coming back.

"Because of that I'm now able to create apps that truly impact people in our community," said Donthi.

Donthi and her group previously made an app that helps to connect new immigrants or refugees in the area with local resources. She said whether it's for temporary health care purposes or long term resettlement stays. The app provided information about transportation and food and anything anyone new would need to know about their community. 

Last year an eighth-grader helped create an app that tackled the increase in teenage suicide and depression, "We saw an increase in depression of kids and kids having suicide thoughts, so our app had games and activities, and things to relax them and help them to think good thoughts and stop feeling like that," said Anushka Kollengode, who started the program when she was in middle school.  

"My brother had a friend who died from suicide, so we also had hotline services so they can talk to people if they're feeling like that," she said.

In the weeks to come each group will begin coding their ideas into apps and presenting their ideas through pitches at the end of the program. Bogovich said that some of the older groups, pitch their apps to the local groups as if they were really selling the idea to be used through the community which some of the apps have.

Organizers say though there aren't a lot of women involved in computer science, through the Technovation MN program, the interest for girls in Rochester to go into the tech field is growing, "Whenever you do an activity, you sometimes think well maybe it will plateau or it's just going to start to gradually decline, and we seem to still be on the upper part of the curve," said Bogovich.


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