Editor’s Note, July 8, 2010 – This story has been updated to include details on all seven of the participating all-women teams.
WARSAW, Poland – July 8, 2010 – Team MAA from Kuwait wants to help disabled students use computers, and Bulgaria’s Team IThink wants to give travelers and parents helpful, on-the-go health information.
Team MAA from Kuwait (from left): Abrar Amin, Aysha Al-Rowaished and Mariam Al-Najdi.
Both competed in this year’s Imagine Cup 2010 World Finals, and they both happen to be all-women teams, two of seven competing in this week’s Microsoft-sponsored student technology competition.
The other five all-women teams are:
Team PAKTech, Pakistan, Software Design
Team Target Locked, India, Envisioning 2020 Award
Team Woolgathering, Singapore, Digital Media
Team Ka-Chi, Taiwan, Digital Media
Team Mirror Vita, Taiwan, Digital Media
“There are no restrictions on what you can do as a woman,” says Aysha Al-Rowaished, one of the three members of Team MAA. Teammate Mariam Al-Najdi agrees: “If women see themselves in this field, then they should go for it.”
Evgenia Milcheva of Team IThink from Bulgaria says more women are getting into the field, but thinks there are still too few. “There should be more women in this competition here,” she says. “It’s about mindset.”
Opportunities do exist for women in the technology sector, says Janet Bailey, an associate professor from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and mentor to Team Vaccine of the U.S.
“It’s an outstanding field for women,” says Bailey, who has seen the number of women entering computer science and information system fields actually decreasing despite efforts to attract them.
Bailey says many women don’t realize how many opportunities are available for them, adding that more women role models in the field would help change that.
Evelina Dimova, mentor Martin Damyanov, Veronica Milcheva, and Evgenia Milcheva of Team IThink from Bulgaria.
“I think there are a lot of women who think they can’t succeed, and that’s not true,” she says, noting that the Imagine Cup is a good way to get women interested in technology. “Letting them know that they have an opportunity is the biggest thing.”
Members of Team IThink say it’s no big deal that their team is all women – they formed because they work well together, not because they are women.
“We are not only friends, but we are partners,” says Evelina Dimova. “We are a very good team. I believe if I weren’t with them, then I wouldn’t be here.”
IThink’s project aims to help travelers use smartphones to easily find critical health information. For example, in restaurants being able to access ingredients to see if an item they want to order has something they or their children are allergic to.
The goal is to build something like Wikipedia, where people who are certified can update the database, Milcheva says.
Over at Team MAA, members have built software to help disabled people use computers when they don’t have the coordination or even the limbs to do so with existing technology. The team’s project involves putting one to three sensors on a disabled person’s limb so that when they move it, the cursor moves with it across the screen.
“It’s like a virtual mouse,” says Mariam Al-Najdi, who notes that the team tested the technology in several schools. Administrators say they want to use the program, and the team has received interest in using it on a countrywide scale.
Aysha Al-Rowaished says she was struck by the reaction of kids who employed the team’s software to use a computer for the first time. “It was amazing to see how much they wanted to try something new,” she says.
Both teams say just getting to Imagine Cup is helping them get a valuable head start in their careers.