organizations come together to encourage girls to consider tech careers

In grade school, girls are often considered to be less interested in math and science, and therefore not encouraged. But leaders at OneCommunity, Case Western Reserve University and BlueBridge Networks see the potential for young women to thrive in a techie environment.

On Friday, March 13th and Saturday, March 14th, the three organizations will come together to host the inaugural Innovation Olympiad on CWRU’s campus. The event invites girls ages 13-18 to explore STEM subjects and the Internet of Things (IoT) in an innovation challenge. It is designed to inspire creativity, innovation and collaboration. The girls will break into teams to brainstorm their ideas and compete for prizes. Organizers are expecting 80 to 100 participants.
“We come to work at OneCommunity thinking about the possibilities in connectivity,” says Jane Passantino, chief marketing officer for OneCommunity. “The ideas are limitless when you think about inspiration, greatness and thought. I hesitate to guess what they will come up with.”
The idea for the Innovation Olympiad came after OneCommunity CEO Lev Gonick heard about Cisco’s IoT World Forum Young Women’s Innovation Grand Challenge. He wanted to something similar on a local level to encourage girls to consider tech careers.
BlueBridge managing director Kevin Goodman and client services director Nicole Ponstingle, who both also serve on the Northeast Ohio Rite Board (Regional Information Technology Engagement Board), got involved with the Innovation Olympiad because of their dedication to making sure the region has plenty of incoming IT talent.
“Our concept is to encourage young leaders in general,” says Goodman. “In this case specifically, it’s encouraging young girls in innovative entrepreneurial leadership.” Ponstingle adds, “As a woman in technology, when I heard about this it obviously excited me. We really have to push the technology option as a viable career path for women.”
Lisa Camp, associate dean of strategic initiatives at Case School of Engineering, sees the Olympiad as a great way to fuel the pipeline of skilled talent in Northeast Ohio. “One of the reasons Case Western is excited to be involved is we’re seeing the next generation coming up with wonderful, creative ideas,” she says. “This is an opportunity to inspire young women to think about STEM, think about Internet of Things. When given the opportunity, young woman want to participate.”

Goodman agrees that the Olympiad is a good way to foster tomorrow’s leaders in the region. “We are looking forward to the magic and art of innovation occurring at Case -- watching the ideas the participants will come up with,” he says. “IoT has power and ability to change and improve the quality of life in so many ways. Areas such as education, energy, exercise and fitness, transportation, home living, smart cities and many other areas are going to be positively affected. What an exciting time to be participating in this arena of technology.”
Organizers will provide opening remarks on Friday, while Saturday will involve breakout groups among the participants and a second break out session for parents. The teams will present their ideas in a “Shark Tank” like setting and prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000 will be awarded to the top four teams. The Olympiad is free and open to the public. Registration, however, is required by Sunday, March 1.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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