Young Women Won Technology Competition with a Game to Conserve Water
We started with a problem.
Actually, we started with several problems.
Problems with energy efficiency. Problems with healthcare delivery. Problems with water management. Problems with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Problems are everywhere, but so are their solutions.
“The key is to find a problem that you’re passionate about – you will find solutions and the resources to make those ideas happen,” said Suchanuch Piriyasatit, Computer Science student at Mahidol University, Thailand.
Suchanuch Piriyasatit, along with Suchanun Piriyasatit (Computer science major), Wanutcha Lorpaiboon (Chemistry major), and Arthitaya Rusmintratip (Finance major) joined forces and entered the international Invent for the Planet 2018(IFTP2018) competition.
The only all-female team joining IFTP2018 at Mahidol University!
"Problems are everywhere. So are their solutions"
Over 60 student teams from 10 universities and vocational institutions around the world participated in IFTP2018 intensive three-day event in February 16-18, 2018, to solve the world’s most pressing issues.
"By giving these students a platform for collaboration and communication, we were able to bridge cultural gaps and open each student up to a world of possibilities," said Rodney Boehm, director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program at Texas A&M.
It’s not about the technology. It’s about people.
“When we first got the problem statement about water management in the [Invent for the Planet] competition, we were worried about our lack of engineering skills. Being the only all-girls team did not help make us any less nervous,” said Suchanun Piriyasatit with a chuckle.
“Then as we were researching and creating prototypes, we realized that it’s not about the technology or the engineering behind something that makes it successful – the human component always comes first,” added Wanutcha Lorpaiboon.
“We’re good at that, and that’s where we started. Technology and the technical aspects of the solutions all came together after we were clear about what kind of impact we wanted to create with our target audience.”
“It made no difference that we were all females,” said Arthitaya Rusmintratip.
The team proposed the “WaterAboutYou” app to bring the fun back into water management. Using a combination of Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, and gamification, they propose to change household behaviors and create a social trend to encourage people to conserve water.
Their solution won first prize in the Invent for the Planet competition at Mahidol University!
“It made no difference that we were all females.”
The prize was supported by the National Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Policy Office, part of the Thai government’s initiative to promote STEM in the region.
It doesn’t end with the competition.
“I’m pretty proud of our team and the ideas that we came up with. We had such good team work, and the fact that we came from different fields in STEM created a very interesting balance to our solution,” said Wanutcha Lorpaiboon.
“Now my younger classmates are asking about ‘what’s it like to join a competition as girls?’ They’re now more curious about the possibility. They didn’t think joining the competition as an all-girls team was even an option before!”
“I think that on its own is pretty cool – winning the prize or not,” said Arthitaya Rusmintratip.
The team also had more things to say about women in STEM here.
We connect Women in STEM.
Inspirational role models unlock tremendous potential in youth.
Especially in the case of young women navigating the world of work, having a supportive network of female professional peers, mentors, and mentees has an incredible impact on the community’s success. We learned this when we conducted the “Celebration of Women in Technology in the Lower Mekong Countries”workshop at Intel Vietnam.
Hear about one mentor’s experience in connecting with young women here.
In order to further promote more gender empowerment in STEM, we connect with one of our industry partners in the MekongSkills2Work Network, Cisco Systems, in the Women Rock-ITinitiative.
As a prize for winning the IFTP2018 at their institution, the WaterAboutYou team got the chance to visit the Cisco Systems office in Bangkok, Thailand, to attend the live Women Rock-IT event through cutting-edge teleconferencing technology.
“Hearing about twelve-year old young women in Australia competing in a technology competition was incredible!” said Wanutcha Lorpaiboon.
“It’s like we’re going through the same experience, and that we could really learn from each other.”
“It made me really feel that young people aren’t just citizens of the future. We’re the present, here, making an impact,” Arthitaya Rusmintratip.
The WaterAboutYou team also got the chance to learn more about working as a female professional in STEM with Suthinee Leelahemaratana, program manager of Cisco Systems Social Innovation Group in Thailand.
“Women are incredibly valuable assets to the STEM industry.
It’s in our best interest to connect young women to inspiring professionals to help them navigate the world of work and build a supportive network of women leaders,”
There were hints that perhaps at the next Women Rock-IT event, the WaterAboutYou team could be the main speakers, sharing their experiences and inspiring the next batch of women around the world.
The bottom line is that these young women saw a challenge in the world that needs to be addressed – and decided to do something about it. WaterAboutYou?
About this story
The MekongSkills2Work Network – a group of universities, vocational colleges, and industry partners in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development Connecting the Mekong through Education and Training (USAID COMET) project.
USAID COMET is a workforce development program that equips youth with market-driven skills, promotes gender-balanced employment in key sectors, and increases technology-based learning in classrooms.
Instructors are trained in dynamic classroom approaches, such as exploring real-world problems and allowing youth to practice both their technical and soft skills in innovation challenges.
As of 2018, over 34,000 students have been trained using the MekongSkills2Work Sourcebook, USAID COMET’s online experiential learning toolkit.