We’re getting ready to celebrate Girl Day — a worldwide campaign to welcome more girls to engineering! Girl Day (also known as Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day) is part of EWeek, which is an opportunity to celebrate engineers and their work and to ensure a diverse and well-educated engineering force.
This year’s EWeek theme is imagining tomorrow, which we love! Technovation Girls participants imagine tomorrow when they pick a community problem to solve and then build a mobile app-based solution. To bring their visions for a better tomorrow to life, these girls use cutting-edge technology in socially conscious ways, which is why today we’re spotlighting teams who used artificial intelligence tools in their work. These girls’ projects help people with speech impediments and hearing problems, teach users about emotional intelligence, help families of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and help people adapt to the ways climate change shifts local ecology.
These girls and the tools they’re building are a reminder that technology holds the most promise when everyone is invited (and equipped) to create and build.
Vocali, by Team Vocali (United States)
Ruoyu grew up with a stutter. She knows how difficult living with a speech disorder can be; she was bullied and mocked by classmates and came to believe she was inferior because of her stutter. Ruoyu has since overcome her stutter, but she doesn’t want other kids to feel the way she felt when she was younger. More than 70 million people around the world stutter, and many of them are not able to afford a speech pathologist. That’s where Vocali comes in. Ruoyu and her co-founder, Ziyao, created Vocali as a free way for kids to access and practice speech therapies. Designed for children ages 4-12, Vocali offers speech drills that improve users’ pronunciation clarity, as well as speech challenges that ask them to interact with the real world. Using speech-recognition tools, Vocali provides immediate feedback to users on their pronunciation, and makes use of emerging speech therapies. Vocali is available for download, and Ruoyu and Ziyao have big ideas to keep improving the app and add new features and a big vision for the app’s impact. Ruoyu explains that “with Vocali, stuttering children will become the voices for themselves.”
Blabber, by Rivas Tech Girls (Spain)
5% of the global population has disabling hearing loss. That includes 34 million children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Sara, Andrea, África, and Eva want to make communication easier for those who are hard of hearing, those who have speech disorders, and the people who love and care about them. Inspired in part by their own experience with deaf and hard of hearing classmates, team Rivas Tech Girls built Blabber, an android app that teaches users sign language in Spanish and English. Although their school supports students with hearing loss or speech disorders by including tutors in the classroom experience, Sara, Andrea, África, and Eva felt frustrated by their own inability to communicate directly with their friends and classmates who spoke sign language. So they built a fun way to learn to sign! Blabber offers lessons to teach users the signs for individual letters and numbers, using speech recognition tools. The app can also be connected to a robotic arm via bluetooth! The arm demonstrates the gesture in real time, allowing users to see a more accurate representation of the sign they are trying to learn. The team developed the arm using a 3-D printer and an arduino using open source software so that anyone can build their own robotic arm. They also plan to manufacture arms to sell alongside the app.
Qhawana, by Dory’s Team (Bolivia)
Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide (it affects around 50 million people). Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and it can be overwhelming for those who have it and those who love and care for them. Sandra and Valentina built their app Qhawana to make it just a little bit easier. Qhawana helps prevent Alzheimer’s patients from wandering away from their caregivers and getting lost by notifying caregivers of erratic movement. Using artificial intelligence algorithms that process user movement based on the location of their smartphone, the app detects erratic movements. If the app detects movements that suggest the individual with Alzheimer’s is starting to wander, it alerts their caregivers or family. The alerts include the individual’s real-time location and can activate a community network that can include neighbors, police, emergency services, and local government officials. In Quechua, a language indigenous to Bolivia, Qhawana means “place where everything is seen” and for Sandra and Valentina, that means keeping beloved elders safe and looked after.
Sandra and Valentina were 2020 Technovation Regional Winners — read more about their Technovation Girls experience in this interview.
Smart Emotions, by team Smart Emotions (Ireland)
Laura wants “to create technologies that change the way people think and behave by activating their emotional intelligence,” which is why she created Smart Emotions. Inspired to help people better understand their emotions and how they affect their behavior, this app can help users relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Smart Emotions includes an emotional intelligence test, training videos, and a discussion forum that allows users to share their thoughts and deepen their understanding of the material. Users can ask questions to the Smart Emotions AI assistant, which is built on a dataset of answers collected from doctors, life coaches, and counselors. With Smart Emotions, Laura helps people develop skills that will help them find greater success in their personal and professional lives.
Kap, by Aguacates Unidos por México (Mexico)
Edna, Claudia, and Giovanna noticed their local ecosystem changing in ways that put community members’ lives at risk. Specifically, climate change has caused environmental shifts that displaced animals into new regions. In their city of León, that means an increase in venomous species. In 2019, León reported 43,913 cases of scorpion stings. And it’s not just a local problem — estimates suggest that by 2050, venomous species will migrate into densely inhabited locations due to climate change, putting 6.7 million people at risk. Time is critical after being stung by a scorpion, which is why Edna, Claudia, and Giovanna built Kap, which quickly tells users which hospitals have the antidote available and helps contact emergency services. The app allows users to change phone calls into emergency emails, in case the user’s throat has swollen shut due to allergic reactions. Kap also educates users and helps them identify species through AI-powered visual recognition tools that can identify 14 now-local venomous species and rate how dangerous they are.
These are just five examples of the 1,500 submissions we received last year from girls all over the world who are ready to use technology to change the world. Let’s make sure that we give them the tools and support they need to chase those dreams and build their inventions to help their communities.