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Berkeley Lab-Mentored Team of High School Girls Wins National Contest to Develop Science Ed App

May 11, 2012

Contact: Jon Bashor, Jbashor@lbl.gov, 510-486-5849


Mentors are Sufia Haque of Berkeley Lab’s Engineering Division (brown shirt) and Taghrid Samak (striped purple shirt) of the Computational Research Division

After taking top honors among their peers from Albany and Berkeley High Schools, a team of five girls from Albany High beat out 10 other teams from high schools around the country to win the 2012 Technovation Challenge. The challenge is a 10-week program in which teams of girls develop science education apps for smartphones.

Berkeley Lab hosted 11 teams from two local high schools with 20 Lab staff members serving as mentors. The teams also had to develop business plans for their apps and presented them as business pitches. After winning the April 28 East Bay pitch day, Albany’s Team Coffee Beans went on to edge the top teams from eight other Bay Area programs, as well as top teams from Los Angeles, New York and Boston on May 3. The competition was held at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara.

Their winning app, called StudiCafe, is aimed at helping students study for college-level Advanced Placement courses with social networking added to maintain interest. Students could study using flash cards, take quizzes, visit different AP Cafés for different subjects, and compare their progress to others. The team said they would market the app through social networking sites, but also would consider partnering with one of the companies providing support to students studying for the tests.

The team was mentored by Sufia Haque of Berkeley Lab's Engineering Division and Taghrid Samak of the Computational Research Division. In all, 24 women at the Lab served as mentors to girls participating in the program.

"Being a mentor to such a bright and focused group of young women was a pleasure and a privilege," said Haque. "The students acquired the programming skills and the confidence to design a mobile phone app prototype, write a business plan, and 'pitch' their idea to a panel of venture capitalists. I am not sure how much I inspired them but they certainly inspired me."

As national winners, the team will collaborate with professional app developers to bring their idea to the Android app market. According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, the value of the prize is about $15,000.

Read more about the 11 teams hosted by Berkeley Lab and the apps they developed.

About Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) Computing Sciences organization provides the computing and networking resources and expertise critical to advancing the Department of Energy's research missions: developing new energy sources, improving energy efficiency, developing new materials and increasing our understanding of ourselves, our world and our universe.

ESnet, the Energy Sciences Network, provides the high-bandwidth, reliable connections that link scientists at 40 DOE research sites to each other and to experimental facilities and supercomputing centers around the country. The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) powers the discoveries of 7,000-plus scientists at national laboratories and universities, including those at Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division (CRD). CRD conducts research and development in mathematical modeling and simulation, algorithm design, data storage, management and analysis, computer system architecture and high-performance software implementation. NERSC and ESnet are Department of Energy Office of Science User Facilities.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world's most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the DOE’s Office of Science.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.