Some Calgary girls are heading off to take on the world at a tech competition in Silicon Valley and they are helping other kids while they’re at it.
The four girls, all 11 years old, are on a team they’ve named Robot Unicorns.
They’re travelling to California to compete at the 2019 Technovation World Pitch competition.
“[We’re] representing Canada!” team member Emma Cutler said. “Because we’re the only Canadian team.”
The Robot Unicorns are involved in the international Technovation program, which pairs girls with women mentors from tech companies.
The mentors guide the girls through the process of developing a mobile app.
The Robot Unicorns have developed an app called Cloud 9, which is aimed at helping kids with social anxiety.
“Social anxiety is when you feel like people are judging you, or saying they don’t like [you],” Cutler said. “And you don’t want to talk to people.”
Team members have seen how hard the condition can be for kids struggling with it.
“I have a friend who has social anxiety,” team member Sarah Jacobson said. “She’s really shy and it’s hard for her to make friends.”
The Cloud 9 app features a dog character that kids can share their experiences with.
“We chose [a dog] because an emotional support animal can be really good for social anxiety,” Cutler said.
The app also includes a therapist character that gives advice and a resource hub which leads to further support.
“[It has] all these links and stories about people who’ve gone through social anxiety,” team member Tito Akinlosotu said. “[There are] support resources, so in your local community, you can find things.”
The girls are hoping it will be enough to win over the Technovation judges, as they face off against teams from around the world.
“Cambodia, Nigeria, Bolivia, India,” Akinlosotu said. “The U.S. is coming too.”
The top teams receive scholarship money and support to take their app to the next level.
“There’s a lot of kids struggling with [social anxiety],” team member Claire Palmer said. “There are so many resources for adults and kids above 13, but there’s none really for under 13.”
The Technovation World Pitch event happens on Thursday, Aug. 15 in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Robot Unicorns feel that whatever happens in the competition, taking part in Technovation has already made them big winners.
“It’s very fun and you get to learn a lot from it,” Cutler said. “I recommend doing it.”
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