PA Team Returns from World Pitch with Honors

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WoCo Girls placed second for app Praise Pop; Recognized by UN

 

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PA’s Head of School John G. Palfrey, Jr., joined team WoCo during World Pitch in San Francisco.

PA’s team WoCo & Co.” (shorthand for Women Who Code) has placed second in the world in Technovation Challenge, a global competition designed to interest girls in careers in technology and entrepreneurship. View the official press release. The final round, World Pitch 2015, took place in San Francisco on June 24 and consisted of six finalist teams pitching their apps to an audience of tech professionals and a panel of judges from Yahoo, Yelp, Google, Hackbright Academy and the Salesforce.com Foundation. This year’s first place award went to Team Charis from Nigeria. UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and a strategic partner of Technovation Challenge, also cited the WoCo girls for being the top team from the United States. Showcasing their app at World Pitch was the culmination of the girls’ participation in the 12-week Technovation Challenge program, in which 400 teams from 60 countries competed.

WoCo includes PA students Qiqi Ren ‘15 and Moe Sunami ‘17, who focused primarily on the coding and app design, and Jenny Huang ‘16 and Sloane Sambuco ‘15, who focused on business development and communications. Their mobile app, “PraisePop,” aims to promote kindness and inclusivity at PA through a social media platform (which requires an Andover login) to post anonymous, uplifting comments to fellow students. Maria Litvin, Mathematics and Computer Science Instructor at PA, who served as the students’ coach, brought the challenge to campus for the first time and earned funding for it from PA’s Tang Institute.

“After working for months on researching, developing the idea, coding the app, and writing the business plan, seeing our final product come to life was incredibly satisfying,” said Sloane Sambuco of WoCo. “We learned how important collaboration and hard work are, and how, when you put your heart into things, you are rewarded.”

The WoCo girls had previously competed in an online semifinal round and a regional pitch night and showcase on May 1, 2015, in Cambridge, Mass. WoCo was one of three U.S. teams and six world teams who had advanced to the final competition in San Francisco. Another PA team, “Seventh,” had advanced to the semifinals and had previously placed second in the regional event for their app, “The Pack: Safety in Numbers.” This was the first year that Phillips Academy competed; 22 PA girls, divided into teams of four to five students, completed the challenge.

The WoCo girls will continue to develop their app with help from the Abbot Academy Association, which recognized them for, “impressively taking on macro challenges by demonstrating female leadership in the underrepresented coding industry while also addressing micro problems of inclusivity on PA’s campus, which the administration has made a strategic priority.” The girls will use their Abbot Grant to operate PraisePop in the PA community. In addition, the WoCo girls will appear in a documentary by critically-acclaimed filmmaker, Lesley Chilcott, who filmed the girls and other teams throughout the country as they competed in Technovation Challenge. Chilcott has also produced a number of other documentaries, including the Academy Award-winning Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman. The film is currently scheduled to be completed in 2015.

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