Layne Wilks, Emily Pockett, Isabel O’Brien and Violet O’Brien are Year 8 students at St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar, and part of the Virtual Academy program. They were the recent winners of the NSW Secondary School Regional division in the 2019 Tech Girls Movement Competition.
The competition provides girls with access to technology and programs to build their skills and confidence.
The St Joseph’s foursome worked maturely and consistently on an app design over semester one of the program, collaborating as a team, engaging with their coach for fortnightly video conferences, taking on board feedback from a variety of sources, organising their school commitments alongside their Tech Girls activities and negotiating the whole process with their class teachers and gifted education mentor, Kate Hart.
The girls overcame time-zone differences to engage with Tech Girls mentor Rachael Richards, the global head of manager capability at Salesforce in San Francisco. Their conversations with Ms Richards involved learning more about real-world app start-up scenarios such as raising revenue and users, purpose and audience, budgeting, advertising and creating a credible business image.
Ms Richards was an incredible help to the girls and provided a real-life perspective on creating and managing an app.
Their final app, Avo (Awesome Vibes Online), provides a medium to educate people about safety online while also acting as a platform to report potential online threats to others’ wellbeing.
Avo allows parents and teachers to be aware of online threats to their children and students such as cyberbullying, inappropriate sexual and violent content, grooming, and unsafe viral social media trends. It also uses data analysis to raise awareness of these threats before they cause harm.
It is preventive, and therefore unique. Avo stops the threat before it influences a young individual’s health, whereas most other online-safety apps are reactionary.
The A-team’s submission to the Tech Girls competition also involved creating an app name and logo, a viable business plan, a pitch video, a tutorial video, as well as a wireframe and app prototype. St Joseph’s principal Trish Hales describes the girls as “an amazing team”.
“They worked collaboratively and creatively to not only produce an app, but to extend their capabilities and be future focused,” Mrs Hales said. “The direction and guidance provided by their teachers and mentors has enabled them to be ‘open to possibilities’ — something all students at Lochinvar are asked to consider. Our mantra ‘Lochinvar students can do anything’ has truly come alive for these young entrepreneurs.”
Virtual Academy educator and team coach Rebecca Heath says the girls displayed exceptional skills in negotiating and organising their learning with various parties including their Tech Girls mentor, their gifted education mentor, as well as classroom teachers and executive staff.
“Their app showed their concern for the safety of their peers in the online space and they thought deeply about how to protect young internet users from cyber harm,” Ms Heath said. “They were able to listen to the concerns of their peers about online safety and incorporate that into their app.
“Their business plan was of real-world standard and showed their critical thinking about a business model, budget, branding and advertising. Above all, I commend the girls in stepping outside of their comfort zone in many ways. They have grown so much as self-directed, independent and confident learners.”
They will display their app and present a three-minute elevator pitch to industry experts at the Hunter Region Tech Girls are Superheroes Showcase, Newcastle Museum, Wednesday 20 November. The A-team have also been given the opportunity to submit their app to the global competition Technovation Girls.