This year’s Technovation[MN] marked the second opportunity for young women to dream up, design, code and pitch mobile apps encouraged and critiqued by panels of industry professionals. The stakes were high. The top ten teams — six from the high school division and four from the middle school division — will participate in World Pitch Night in San Francisco this June. There they will compete to win $10,000 in seed funding to bring their app to market.
I was selected to be a judge this year, and it was an amazing experience. Technovation[MN]’s Appapalooza event received submissions from 6 high school and 22 middle school teams. Teams were divided into four groups, one for high school submissions, and three four middle schools. I judged one of the middle school groups, some notable concepts from the girls include:
- An app that helps new students navigate their middle school with useful maps, configurable class schedule, links to class websites, school event schedule and more
- A bus tracker that alerts parents and students when busses are late and allows them to geolocate the bus so students can avoid standing outside in the cold weather
- A homework tracking app that alerts parents when homework assignments are handed out and when they are due, plus includes reminders for the students when homework assignments are coming up
- An app that pairs up volunteer opportunities with volunteers in the community
Technovation[MN] supplied the teams with information, mentors and resources so they could code their own apps. Furthermore, participants learned how to create business plans, marketing strategies, revenue calculations and pitch videos — everything it takes to become an entrepreneur.
As judges, we reviewed the deliverables from the team, loaded their app using the MIT App Inventor Platform, and scored each submission based on an official rubric. Scores were given to each submission in the following categories:
- Ideation — Did the team identify a real problem in their community, and did the app address the problem that they identified?
- Technical — Is the prototype fully functional and go beyond static information/functionality? Additionally, the final product match the feature list defined in the product description?
- User interface — Is the UI intuitive and easy to use?
- Entrepreneurial — Did the pitch video describe the value of the app, and did the team define the potential market size and perform a competitive analysis?
- Branding and promotion — Did the team define a promotion plan and include a logo for their business?
- Overall impression — Is the pitch compelling, and will this app be used by consumers?
During the Appapalooza event, the final pitches were given by the team and were again judged against an official rubric. The team presentations included a brief description of the app. Then, their pitch and demo videos were shown on the big screen. Finally, participants could thank all the people who helped along the way. Three middle school teams and one high school team were selected to move on to the semi-final round of the Global Competition.
Technovation[MN] did a wonderful job with the event. We started with presentations in separate rooms, followed by a social intermission where final points were tabulated and winners decided and finally the award ceremony. During the intermission, coordinators provided a dessert bar, photo booth, and music entertainment. It was great to see so many girls with their friends and families rooting them on. The second annual Technovation[MN] event was a great success, and hopefully will draw more students from the Comicon next door in 2016.
If you are interested in getting involved as a Technovation[MN] mentor, judge or volunteer, please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.