By Audra Darbyshire

Every time I meet one of our alumnae, I think about what I was doing when I was a teenager. I am continuously in awe of the drive and perseverance they display at such a young age. This is the story of 3 girls from Gaziantep, Turkey—just one example of how Technovation teens around the world are using their ingenuity to inspire others.

In 2023, classmates Beyza, İrem, and Yağmur were introduced to Technovation by a teacher. They didn’t know each other well, but decided to take a chance working together to learn how to develop a tech project.

Their home city of Gaziantep, Turkey, faces challenges due to air pollution. Globally, outdoor air pollution claims 8.3 million lives per year. Yağmur explains, “Gaziantep, is a city that has a big industrial area. And eventually we face a lot of challenges that pollution causes…We created a device called Global Pollution System, a.k.a. GPS. This device detects measurements of sun, light, carbon dioxide, dust, and humidity. After it detects these measurements, it shows them on the map on our website.”

The device is small and designed to be mounted on buses and other vehicles to collect measurements from several locations throughout each day, and then the data is run through a time series analysis algorithm—a machine learning application that allows the girls to forecast future air pollution levels.

However, their progress on the project was interrupted on February 6, 2023—the date a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck 19 miles (30 km) from Gaziantep, killing 12,000 people. Beyza explains, “The earthquake was massive, and we were just shaking for like 2 or 3 weeks. We didn’t even come to school for a month.”

The friends were left with a difficult decision: whether or not they would have to drop the project. And this question forced me to wonder, if I faced the destruction and trauma of an event like this, and certain fear and anxiety that the continuing aftershocks induce, what would I do? How much resolve would it take to decide to continue?

“Even now, it’s the biggest thing that Turkey faces. So we decided to be a part of it and help our community and our country and even the world,” Yağmur shared proudly, adding, “We added a new sensor. It detects asbestos.” Many of the buildings that collapsed during the quake were built before asbestos was prohibited, and their rubble releases the dangerous chemical. Gaziantep and the surrounding area will face the resulting health hazards for decades, as consequences of asbestos exposure typically unfold over time with increased risk of cancers—but some residents already display acute illness. Access to real-time and location-specific asbestos data throughout Gaziantep could save lives by allowing people to avoid heavily contaminated areas.

Leveraging the functions they had already developed for detecting air pollution, the addition of asbestos detection enables them to map asbestos levels throughout the city and forecast how these levels could change in the future with the influence of other measured factors and time. “If we can just show the world how dangerous this chemical is, it can make a big revolution,” Beyza adds.

I am convinced that young women like Beyza, İrem, and Yağmur will be the leaders of our future, and I have the privilege to meet some of them through my work at Technovation. In closing, İrem shared, “As a woman, it is really hard for us to do big things…All the journey makes me feel like I’m a woman who can make an impact in this world.”

Yes. You certainly can.

As of March 2024, the team continues to add more functions to their project, including developing a waterproof device to detect levels of water pollution. 

Join us in the creation of a generation of female leaders and innovators. Learn more about The AI Forward Alliance and how to become a partner. [link]

Audra Darbyshire is Creative Manager at Technovation, where she works with the marketing team to help share stories and accomplishments from the global community of Technovation alumnae, volunteers, and supporters.