Tech Girls Superhero challenge 2016: winners announced | photos, video, interactive

The next generation of technology entrepreneurs were all in one room this week as this year’s Tech Girl Superhero winners were announced.

Other than their skills, talent and passion, the innovators all had one thing in common – they were all females aged between nine and 16 years old.

The Tech Girl Superhero challenge is a Tech Girls Movement initiative, founded by Jenine Beekhuyzen. The movement promotes positive female information technology role models and raises awareness of technology career options for girls.

The competition encourages school groups from across the country to get involved in information technology and draft, create, code and design an app over a few months. Each group is given a mentor who works in the technology industry. This year there were more than 650 girls mentored and 110 mentors who put their hands up to help the next generation’s technology leaders.

“We are here to help you all to reach your potential,” Ms Beekhuyzen said.

“It’s exciting, inspiring and overwhelming seeing girls build confidence in tech skills.”

When asked what she’s learnt from the process so far, Ms Beekhuyzen offered some advice – “just give it a go, don’t wait for everything to finish for you to start”.

More than 130 teams from across Australia developed their own apps with 72 teams registering for the competition and four making it to the finals.

St Philip Neri School in NSW and Mount Gravatt East Primary School in Queensland were nominated as finalists in the primary school competition. In the secondary school competition the finalists were; Nagle College from NSW, St Michael's Collegiate School from Tasmania, Bialik College from Melbourne, St Mary's Anglican Girls' School from Western Australia and Clayfield College from Queensland.

The winners were announced at the Tech Girl Superhero Showcase held at the Microsoft centre in Sydney on Thursday, September 29. The showcase celebrated the power of innovation, the opportunities of technology and society’s next technology superheroes.

St Philip Neri School in NSW won the primary school competition with their app Reading Republic and Western Australia’s St Mary's Anglican Girls' School won the secondary school competition with their app Vocabulary Voyagers. The app is free and available on Google Play.

Kira Molloy, Teale Lyon and Delaney Eastabrook are the brains behind Vocabulary Voyagers, which is a literary improvement game. It works to improve spelling, punctuation and grammar through games, activities and spelling lists based on the Australian curriculum. It’s available on Google Play.

Angelica, Claire, Sophia and Sabrina created the free app Reading Republic, which helps kids learn to read in fun and engaging way. Inspired by the motto “good education should be free,” the app offers an inexpensive way to learn and improve reading skills.

The group of girls divided the workload, with each girl appointed a specific role from coding, design to organisation. The girls were led by their mentor Monica Wulff and coach Nicola O’Brien.

“Their work has been outstanding,” Ms Wulff said.

The creativity of the students was evident as four teams pitched their apps to the crowd at the showcase. The apps covered everything from curing boredom to identifying problems in the Murray River.

The Gol Gol Public School team developed Messing with the Murray, which identified the main causes of contamination in the Murray River such as golf balls, algae, development, erosion and traffic. Through colour coding, the app tells users if the river is safe to swim in or is toxic. 

Ava Thompson said through the development process, they created stronger links with the community and the local council had changed some of the development on the riverfront.

“We feel that this process has given us great skills and we have developed an app that will be benefit to our community and the rest of Australia,” Ava said.

The girls agreed the best part of the challenge was learning how to code and making a change in the community.

Their mentor Hong Hammett said it was impressive to watch the girls identify a real problem in the community and offer a solution.

“They influenced local government to make some changes,” Ms Hammett said.

“Their effort has really paid off and is even improving the quality of life for community members.

“I’m so proud of them.”

The tech superstars heard from the best in the industry at the showcase including a Microsoft representative, Sally-Ann Williams, Engineering Community and Outreach Manager, ambassador for digital technologies curriculum in literacy and numeracy for Google and Fairfax Media’s Chief Information Officer Robyn Elliott.

These successful women spoke of their journeys in the industry, the exciting opportunities technology posed for the future generation and offered invaluable advice for the young tech experts.

“This program encourages you to look at a problem and see it as a solution, encouraging you to be someone that’s a game change,” Ms Williams said.

“Be a real game changer in the world by bringing radical solutions to the world.”

All 72 teams which entered the competition can now apply for the Global Technovation Challenge, which will take the winning team to the United States to further their innovative thinking and technology skills.