Hand a young woman a micro:bit and she’ll think like an entrepreneur

In 2019, we partnered with start-up educators at the The Hacker Exchange to launch an innovative new initiative called the Women in STEMM and Entrepreneurship (WISE) Program. Our aim? To spark an entrepreneurial mindset in Victorian Year 10 women students.

WISE participants

In the program, 200 young women, grouped into teams of four, attend a one-day workshop. They learn about the Internet of Things (IoT) and get hands-on with coding to solve a real-world problem. Guided by a Monash student mentor, each participant receives a pocket-sized micro:bit programmable computer to rapidly prototype and pitch a socially responsible product idea.

A judging panel then selects up to 13 teams to attend a two-day workshop which includes keynotes and panels featuring technologists, entrepreneurs, investors, gamers and other women in STEMM. Here, the teams develop their concepts into economically sustainable products, competing for a trip to the epicentre of technological innovation: Silicon Valley.

‘One winning team in 2019 developed an app, paired with a smart glove, that translates hand gestures into text and audio. The app significantly broadens communication for deaf and other nonverbal users of sign language,’ said Jeanette Cheah, CEO of The Hacker Exchange.

‘Another invented an IoT sensor and connected it to the AutoCaller app. The team’s creation can detect airbag deployment in a car accident and immediately alert emergency services and family with GPS information. This could speed up response times and potentially save more lives.’

WISE Chief Investigator, Chris Gonsalvez, summed up, ‘Our WISE Program exposed the students to inspiring role models, introduced them to new ways of thinking and tapped into their strong desire to change the world. It was exciting to see how in a very short time the program was able to embed a mindshift change for the young women – opening up the world of STEMM and entrepreneurship to them.’

Owing in part to its advancing research on how to inspire entrepreneurism in young women, the WISE program has been named a finalist in the ‘public/private partnership of the year’ category of the 2020 PIEoneer Awards. These prestigious global awards recognise educational organisations who push professional standards, evolve their engagement or redefine the student experience through global connectivity.