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Back from technovation challenge, Brain Squad gets heroic reception

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After a successful outing at the 2019 Technovation competition in far away Silicon Valley, California, United States of America, Brain Squad, the Nigerian representative at the tech challenge got a heroic reception as returned to Nigeria.

A group of five Nigerian girls, the team comprising Ariyo Ayomikun, Ivana Mordi, Jadesola Kassim, Munachiso Chigbo and Pandora Onyedire, all Grade Six students of Standard Bearers School Lagos, were the only African team to make it to the finals. They had cruised their way to the finals, after coming tops at the State, Regional, and National levels of the competition.

The girls invented an app that helps less privileged children go to school. The app, Handsout, won the People’s Choice award at this year’s global Technovation competition, which featured more than 19,000 teenage girls.Brain Squad were looking to follow in the footsteps of last year’s surprise winners, Team Save-a-Soul; another Nigerian side that saw off competition from teams from around the world on their way to claiming the gold in the global competition for young girls. Handsout allows people all over the world to easily donate to Nigerian children and their families to help them pay for school fees, stationaries, and medication.

It was inspired by a tragic incident that occurred in Lagos early this year where many children lost their lives after a school building collapsed in Itafaji, Lagos Island. The girls developed the fundraising app to make it easy for people to make donations to help the needy pay for school fees, food, shoes, books, stationery, and medication and more. And their innovation had earned them a place in the finals of this year’s challenge.

Many had tipped them to pull off a Team Save-a-Soul by going all the way and the girls had every right to dream. But in the end, they could only manage to come away with the People’s Choice Award, having lost out to teams from India and Cambodia in the junior division.

Many had tipped them to pull off a Team Save-a-Soul by going all the way and the girls had every right to dream. But in the end, they could only manage to come away with the People’s Choice Award, having lost out to teams from India and Cambodia in the junior division.

Speaking at a reception held in their honour in Lagos, Munachimso Chigbo said participating in the competition has widened their knowledge in the area of ICT.“It was an interesting experience for all of us; they also introduced Artificial Intelligence (AI) to us and how to use it to solve problems. We went to Uber where they explained to us the platforms they use in their operations, while Google took us to Google Ventures where we had our practice pitch. All the contestants, both senior and junior category, where to meet the judges; it was an opportunity for them to give us info about our pitch and what they feel we should add to it.”

She continued: “Technovation has opened this door for all of us. Personally, I wasn’t a computer person before now, but participating in this competition has shown me that I’m really into coding, which I want to use for my future career.”

On her part, Ayomikun Ariyo, another member of the Brain Squad, described their participation in the global competition as a wonderful experience.
“I learnt a lot of things at Tecnovation; I’m really grateful for the platform it has given to all of us. We went to a lot of field trips and we also had fun; we went to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we ate; we took a tour of the city and saw so many things. I feel Tehcnovation has shown us that we are able to code; we didn’t know what we know now. I’m sure coding will impact our lives as we grow older and I say thank you to our mentors, our parents and everyone for the support they have given us,” she said.

Speaking at the event, the proprietor of Standard Bearers School, Mrs Modupe Adeyinka-Oni said participating in the competition was an induction for the girls into the Technovation Academy.“They have over 17,000 of them right now around the world. This is a platform that allows them to reach out for mentorship anytime; it also allows them to write their CVs and put Technovation 2019 finalist on it. What that would do for them is to take their application from bottom to the top of the pile. In America, Technovation is a big deal. Around the world, it’s something people are just getting to know. Once you take part in the contest, you don’t even need to get to finals, it opens doors for you,” she said.

According to Oni, who was instrumental or rallying support for the Brain Squad to make the trip to United States, the curriculum of Technovation takes them from being able to find a solution and ideate all the way to solving the problem.

“One of the things that was demonstrated when we went to Uber in the AI project was that very quickly, my girls knew how to approach the problem; we never talked to them about AI. But immediately they told them that AI is used to solve problems and gave them 10 minutes overview, immediately they set them to work. I was a bit nervous, ‘will my girls know what to do?’ But I was very proud of them the way they took the challenge. I do know that they’ve been impacted in the ways that money couldn’t buy; staying in Nigeria could not have given them.”

The proprietor informed that the commitment right now is to bring what these girls received at Technovation back home. “Technovation will always be there and we will always participate, but not everybody will make to the United States. So, I’m asking corporate bodies to think what they can do; it doesn’t have to be Technovation girls. We have boys and girls in Nigeria that need to be empowered, that need to be shown a different way. Right now, we have a lot of children growing and waiting for mummy and daddy to continue to help them. But what Technovation shows you from a young age is that, from the age of 10 to 11, start giving solution to world problems.”


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