2016 TechGirlz Summer Camp: Recap

One of the most rewarding weeks of TechGirlz’ calendar year came to a close last Friday. It was our 5th annual Entrepreneur Summer Camp, a week-long tech, business, and entrepreneurship camp for middle school girls. In one week, 26 girls aged 11 to 14 turn their business ideas into a reality, and work together through a lean startup process to get their businesses off the ground. This year was our biggest group yet, and we had an all-star list of presenters from the Philly tech community set to teach them. It was slated to be an incredible week. And an incredible week it was – our five teams of girls tore through the content with a remarkable amount of curiosity and vigor – I am continually impressed by the confidence, creativity, and collaboration that happens in that room.

This camp was special in a couple other ways. Now that TechGirlz is moving into its 6th year as an organization, we’re seeing girls who were with us from the very start coming back to teach. This year, three counselors at camp were previous campers and TechGirlz students, and each has led multiple TechGirlz workshops, ranging from HTML & CSS to Scratch and Raspberry Pi. One of our developers for the week was a girl who’s been with us since our very first workshop – she built her team’s app in HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

There was also a two-day camp going on at the same time in Raleigh, North Carolina, run by the incredible volunteers at Triangle TechGirlz. Our girls wanted to see what they were up to, so in lieu of a video call, they connected using one of Villanova’s Double robots! Here’s a great picture of a camper showing the robot itself on Amazon. So meta.

The girls also got the ultimate VR experience in the CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment, Villanova’s fully immersive 3D visualization studio.

Other Goings-on During Camp Week

Coincidentally, Buzzfeed (a popular news and entertainment platform) had their Hack Week during the week of camp, and had chosen the TechGirlz website to hack on and enhance! A group of their engineers, product designers, and communications managers set out to simplify the process through which people can access our TechShopz in a Box™. Along with working on their project, the BuzzFeed hack team was keeping up to date on the goings on at camp – and on the last day, their hack team chatted with the girls, who were stoked to be talking to the women behind their favorite website.

The women at BuzzFeed also wrote a fantastic wrap-up of the project which you can read here. Thanks again to the ladies at BuzzFeed who made it happen (Swati Vauthrin, Lindsey Maratta, and Emily Brick)!

The Space

This was our first camp in the ‘burbs. It took place on Villanova University’s campus, in their Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE). Despite the fact that it’s relatively new, they’ve been doing some great work for the Philly community, so when they reached out to ask if we wanted to use their space, we said yes! The place has movable tables, whiteboard walls, garage-style breakout rooms, and even a Lego lab for prototyping. Perfect for camp. A common refrain from our attendees often has to do with how cool our event spaces are, and we’re proud to show them the places they could potentially be working or going to school. Many thanks to II Luscri and Martae Giometti for sharing this great space with us.

The Volunteers

Simply put, this camp wouldn’t run without the support of the Philly tech community. We had an exhaustive list of local leaders, connectors, and entrepreneurs to teach the teams about all the different aspects of starting a business. From product managers, to developers, to graphic designers, we were lucky enough to have these individuals share their talents and time with our girls. Here they are:

Demo Day

This is when all the hard work finally pays off. On the last day of camp, each team prepares to pitch their product to the a team of investors which we call the Dolphin Pool – our gentler version of Shark Tank 🙂 Using the knowledge they’ve acquired throughout the course of the week, they create a full presentation for their apps – a live demo, their proposed marketing strategy and financial plan, and lastly, the “ask” – and share it with a packed room of parents, volunteers, and supporters, and the Dolphins. The Dolphins then ‘acquire’ their businesses, one by one. Usually, the Dolphins ask a few questions – and you wouldn’t believe the poise and confidence the team members show in responding. When the girls didn’t have an answer for the Dolphins, they shared what they DO know.

The Teams

  • Circle of Food

    This shared grocery list app tracks what you have in your fridge so you can make delicious recipes and restock easily.
  • GreenClean

    GreenClean is a recycling app that gives you an incentive to help “save the planet” by offering rewards like coupons or free passes for recycling and using reusable bags.
  • KidCash

    KidCash is a mobile banking app that teaches young adults to save and use their money wisely. The app offers educational videos, notifications and tips to help young adults navigate the financial world.
  • SnapFashion

    SnapFashion is an app that allows you to find pictures of fashionable clothes, online or on the street in local stores.
  • Telegram

    Telegram is an app that lets you collect photos, videos and music into a short story for any occasion to send to your friends privately.

The Dolphins

There was also a reporter from Philly Mag in the audience. You can read her recap of Demo Day here.

The Impact

One of the most important things about camp for the girls is the fact that it gives girls a chance to see all different types of tech careers and ways to use technology. Coding is important, but it’s not the only piece. We want to show girls that there are designers, marketers, branders, and project managers, too. That for any single product, there’s an entire team of people with different skills and interests behind it, each one playing just as a crucial of a role as the last. Though we have had some girls take their camp businesses further, that’s not our end game. What we’re trying to do, at the most basic level, is provide mentors, role models, and hands-on experience to show girls that there are many, many different ways to get involved in technology. And that there’s always a space for them.



Written by Becca Refford.