Technovation launches second year in Ottawa with more students, sponsors

With more than double the number of participants and new sponsors on board, momentum is growing for the Technovation program, organizer Jennifer Francis said Monday.

This is the second year the program, which was developed in California, is taking place in the capital. The event kicked off Sunday with 107 girls attending an app development day at Carleton University.

From now until May, the teams of girls selected by their high schools will get plenty of mentorship while they develop apps that will be presented to a board of judges. The goal of the program is to expose female students to careers in technology and entrepreneurship they may not have considered otherwise.

A team from Merivale High School won last year’s event, defeating the Colonel By entry in the finals. A highlight of Sunday’s event, according to Ms. Francis, was having both teams back to tell this year’s participants how their experiences have changed their perspectives on what they may want to do after high school.

As last year’s winners, the Merivale team had a chance to advance to the Technovation finals in California. Their video pitch got them to the semi-finals, but they fell just short of advancing. Both the Merivale and Colonel By teams are continuing to work on their apps, with an eye on turning them into businesses.

In fact, the Colonel By team became the youngest participants ever green-lighted into Carleton’s Lead to Win program, said Ms. Francis.

“They finished the Lead to Win so they’re back in high school again because they haven’t graduated yet,” she said with a laugh, adding they are competing again this year with their app that connects people with stores where they can buy ingredients for ethnic cooking.

In addition to the increased cohort, Pythian and L-Spark have joined returning sponsors Shopify and IBM. Technovation is a good fit for Pythian’s Pythia Program, which is helping the firm diversify its talent base with a specific focus on recruiting women.

Ms. Francis said sponsors help expand with program with their support, while Technovation helps sponsors recruit talent.

“I was talking to one of the women from Shopify (Sunday) and they’re looking at the possibility of bringing in a couple of interns from people who did the program last year,” she said.

Since Technovation was originally an American initiative, the event also received financial support from the U.S. Embassy, which helped ensure all participants had a laptop or smartphone.

As host, Carleton is now interested in helping to expand the program, Ms. Francis said.