Meet the educators behind the Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero comp

Educators keen to encourage more girls into STEM are entering students in the Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero comp. Image: Shutterstock

From keeping families together to staying calm, there were some smart tech solutions presented at the 2019 Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero competition.

When primary school teacher Tracy Sleeman first got involved in the Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero competition, developing an app seemed out of reach.

But in just 12 weeks, Sleeman and her two teams from Golden Beach State School had designed and built an app, created a pitch video, and picked up entrepreneurial skills with the help of a tech mentor. “We quickly learnt!”, says Sleeman. “The girls loved it.”

Four years on, Sleeman has coached several girls through the competition and has enjoyed watching them apply their technical flair back in the classroom.

“They built the skills at the competition and are keen to use them,” says Sleeman. “The program is a big commitment, but the girls who choose to enter usually stick with it.”

RELATED: Online resource launched to encourage more girls into STEM

Girls in tech: our kind of heroes

Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero, which is now in its sixth year, is open to girls aged 7-17 from schools across Australia and New Zealand. In teams of up to five, the girls uncover an issue they want to solve in their community, whether its health and equality or environment and education.

Techgirls founder, Jenine Beekhausen, rocked a red cape in true SuperSTEM fashion.

Over three months, the girls dive into research, develop a business plan, design and build an app, and pitch their idea to Australian STEM leaders. The winning teams are given the opportunity to showcase their ideas to top tech executives and engineers in Silicon Valley.

One of Sleeman’s three teams this year created an app that helps divorced families stay in touch. Designed by four Year 5 girls, #familycommunic8 includes a shared calendar that parents and children can use to stay up to date with school schedules, important events and appointments. The app won the primary school regional category in Queensland.

RELATED: These primary school girls and their app ideas are seriously inspiring 

At Cititpointe Christian College in Brisbane, Cindy Zhang and her classmates created Anger Switch, an app that helps primary-aged children cope when they feel angry. The app includes a description of anger, a maze and calming music. The girls also used artificial intelligence techniques to build in an image recognition tool that can identify objects in selfies.

The wining app, Anger Switch, helps users process their anger through icons, games and music.

While winning the national primary school category was a highlight for Zhang, she says the best part about taking part in Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero was learning how to work as a team.

“It was a great experience, because whenever anyone wanted to give up, we would all encourage each other,” says Zhang. “That’s what kept us going at our best.”

Passionate about getting more girls into STEM? Here’s why it’s so crucial. 

Gemma Conroy

Author: Gemma Conroy

Gemma is a freelance journalist with a passion for making science accessible to everyone. Gemma has a degree in biology from Macquarie University and loves sharing amazing discoveries with the world.


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