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

May 11, 2012

By Jon Bashor
Contact: cscomms@lbl.gov

Technovation 2012 participants

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

High performance computing plays a critical role in scientific discovery. Researchers increasingly rely on advances in computer science, mathematics, computational science, data science, and large-scale computing and networking to increase our understanding of ourselves, our planet, and our universe. Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences Area researches, develops, and deploys new foundations, tools, and technologies to meet these needs and to advance research across a broad range of scientific disciplines.