October 30, 2019, marked the first of Impacthub’s groundbreaking two-day event: The Impact Hackathon, ImpactHub Manila’s attempt to organize the world’s largest hackathon and break the highly-coveted Guinness World Record. At the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, the event aimed to bring together hackers and innovators from different regions in the Philippines.
As part of the Impact 2050 initiative, the event also aimed “to catalyze the impact entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Asia Pacific”, which also worked towards promoting the development of state-of-the-art digital solutions. The Impact Hackathon, was also the second event in the 2019-2020 leg of the program. The first part was the Elevate Roadshow which took place last July to August 2019. After the hackathon, 2050fest, which will provide funding, valuable networking and coaching sessions to startups with potential, will be held in November 2019, and the Incubation, a startup-support initiative for the entire 2020.
With an estimated 7000 participants in Manila alone, together with over 70 renowned figures and leaders in tech as mentors, speakers, and members of the jury board, the event aimed to promote the booming industry of coding and technology in the country. Many potential startups were pitched during the hackathon, and 27 winners were recognized during the event for the brilliance of their ideas. One of the event’s objectives was also to connect different locations in the Philippines: from Vigan and Pampanga in Luzon, to Bacolod and Cebu in Visayas, to Davao and Iligan in Mindanao.
The event was also divided into three: Students, Professionals, and Scale-Up Startups. The last of which had different judging details and criteria from the rest. The problems were first presented along with the available technology that could be utilized to formulate a solution. Workshops were then conducted to improve solution-making, followed by 24-hour hacking and mentorship time. The different pitch presentations were then done, followed by the awarding proper.
During the event, participants were divided into teams of two to five members and their pitches were judged through the following criteria: (1) technical viability/difficulty, which counted for 30% and judged the contestants based on problem complexity and incorporation of different technologies (interface, AI, etc.), (2) business viability, which comprised 30% and determined how pragmatic the prototype was for business applications, (3) social index, which was 25% and determined if the team was able to actualize their solution and communicate their message to the audience, and lastly, (4) design and learning stretch, which accounted 15% and measured how far the teams ventured to learn something new from their comfort zones.
Through these criteria, the best pitch presentations were awarded and given opportunities to further improve and enhance their ideas into pragmatic applications. Impact2050 was truly an avenue for many aspiring individuals with pioneering ideas that were not only innovative but also applicable in the present world.
Pictures from Impact Hackathon were obtained from Impact 2050’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/impact2050/ (More information regarding the event and its winners could be found through the link)
More information regarding the hackathon and future events of Impact 2050 can be found through the link: https://www.impact2050.com/
Written by: Charmaine Espinueva
Wi-Teach is one of the community development initiatives of WiTech that aims to TIE: to Teach, Inspire and Engage with students through sustainable outreach, education and empowerment. The first leg of the WiTeach initiative was launched last August 2-4, 2018 at Marawi City. Students and teachers of the Mindanao State University – University Training Center were taught how to code after computer modules and laptops were donated by the WiTech team. A year later, WiTech then conducted the second leg of Wi-Teach last September 6-7, 2019 at Tagbilaran City, Bohol.
The recently concluded outreach in Bohol is an extension of WiTeach’s initiatives at Lila National High School. In this mission were Audrey Pe (Founder and Executive Director), Jessie de Grano (VP for Community Development), Marla Abao (VP for External Affairs), Charmaine Espinueva (CommDev Outreach Officer and Networking Events Volunteer) and Jazmine Calma (ComDev Outreach Officer). It was a two-day mission wherein Introduction to STEM and basic coding workshops were conducted for Grades 9-11 students. Workshops on Technology for Education, Research and Office skills and basic coding were also conducted for Lila’s teachers. The educational resources for this outreach were provided for in collaboration with the Library Hub Philippines.
More than the workshops and donations of computer modules, what WiTech aimed for this outreach was to open students up to the various applications of STEM and to ultimately initiate in them a shift in perspective: that yes, a career in STEM is an option regardless of their background and that ultimately they have the choice to pursue it.
Tagbilaran is considered as the center of educational excellence in Bohol where most of its private schools are located. However, for most public high schools in Tagbilaran and across Bohol, their graduates only ever consider teaching or nursing professions as options. Furthermore, in the science strand of most public high schools, students are only ever exposed to livelihood and vocational careers in preparation for entry to tourism and service-oriented industries. Indeed this is a very limited view presented to students given the vast options and opportunities available to STEM graduates.
In addition to presenting students with a wider perspective, WiTeach aimed to introduce new skills in computer science and academic research that can be incorporated into Lila’s curriculum. In the computer classes of junior high school students in Lila, students are only taught how to assemble and disassemble hardware without being taught how to use the software of a computer. On the other hand, some senior high school students lack knowledge of Microsoft Office and how to search for credible research articles despite thesis-making already being incorporated into their curriculum.
Given these conditions, the talks and workshops for this mission were then arranged to address these concerns. On the first day, in a talk given by Audrey Pe and Charmaine Espinueva, students were introduced to different fields of STEM and the various opportunities available in them. They wanted to break the stigma that maths and sciences are solely for the gifted; the perception that science only exists in the laboratory, in the form of complicated equations with no tangible applications. The speakers broke this image by imparting the truth that science is a part of one’s everyday life, that its applications are woven into one’s daily life due to the human ability to question and ultimately find answers to these queries, that the art of science is only discovered should one choose to pursue it, that science is not purely a complex and intangible concept but rather something founded on purpose.
When asked how many of the students liked science, less than five students raised their hands. However, as the talk progressed, the students were faced with a light bulb moment as they were introduced to the design of software games and applications, electronics, medicine, agriculture, and satellite-operated security systems, to the manufacture of everyday items such as food and drinks, make up, engines and vehicles. Truly, science does not end in the discovery and understanding of the complex but extends further to solve everyday problems and improve the world we live in.
Basic programming workshops were then taught to both students and teachers by Marla Abao and Jazmine Calma. The logic and design involved in programming were taught using Scratch – which was a first for both students and teachers. Students showed great interest in the software but the language barrier became one of the struggles during teaching. Most students were only fluent in Bisaya and had trouble understanding Filipino and English. Nevertheless, for students, much time was spent exploring the features of this application and the logic behind basic coding. Teachers, on the other hand, were taught how to use Scratch under the context of incorporating it into their lectures to make their classes more engaging for the students.
On the second day, applications and resources were introduced to teachers to aid their teaching. At the start, teachers expressed that in addition to the lack of teachers for computer science, planning lectures and engaging students during lectures is a struggle for most of them. Regardless of the subject being taught, this is a problem that exists and can also be rooted in the language barrier especially when it comes to teaching complex science topics. Moreover, the lack of resources for a conducive and engaging learning environment proved to be limiting.
The WiTech team then introduced the use of XMind and resources such as Microsoft Office, Google Scholar, Crash Course and Khan Academy to aid their teaching. These are references that teachers can use to outline their lectures and teach their students since they have a better grasp of both English and Bisaya. The team also introduced tips on how to make successful presentations to engage students further. WiTech also shared the idea of using Facebook to disseminate lecture guides and important resources to students, as opposed to it being an avenue for leisure alone. Graphing and plotting software was also introduced to improve the teaching of math classes. At the end of the two-day mission, printed modules ranging from the use of Microsoft Office and Scratch to introductory courses in basic programming, research, and Technology for Education were given to Lila for the usage of both its students and teachers.
💃🏻Flashback Friday Alert!💃🏻
✈️ Last September, members of WiTech travelled all the way to Bohol to conduct WiTeach at Lila National High School!👩🏻💻👨🏻💻💫
— WiTech (@witechorg) October 18, 2019
Indeed much has been accomplished by WiTech but a lot more has yet to be done by the rest of the community. In Lila, as is with most Bohol public high schools, there is a lack of sufficient infrastructure to house its resources. Though computers are provided by DepEd and a Starbooks unit is provided by DOST, the lack of space and wifi connectivity ultimately hinders students from fully maximizing the benefits of having a computer. Currently, the computer lab in Lila is being shared with the sewing vocational subject. Thus, as much as there are computers available, the teachers are unable to maintain them, which affects how computer classes are taught.
Information and Computer Technology classes are not mandated nor offered to the whole senior high school class. Rather, it is only open to the best students on a ‘per-choice’ basis. Furthermore, with the lack of internet connection, lessons are limited to basic applications such as MS Office, video making and hardware maintenance. This hinders students from learning about complex concepts in STEM and computing. The language by which these subjects are taught is also another concern given that the resources available for learning science are in English. Efforts must then be made both by the DepEd and supporting institutions to have basic sciences taught in a language that is understood by a variety of students.
Chiara Ledesma is a prime example of a woman who found her passion in CS, and continues to overcome all obstacles to pursue her dreams. And with the support of family, friends, and peers, she ultimately knew that a career in tech was truly her calling even though it was not the expected path for women like her.
Searching for passion
For Chiara, there was never one clear motivation that pushed her to pursue a career in CS. Learning about quantum computing in a TIME article, reading a mystery novel on forensic hacking, or watching a Benedict Cumberbatch WikiLeaks movie: her curiosity was piqued and she found her inclination. “I just found it really cool,” she mentioned.
As a debater in her high school, Chiara was aware of the existent gender gap which affects women like her in achieving their dreams in STEM. “I came across a lot of online campaigns (such as Obama’s) that tried to get young American students to study computer science.” For her, it was not only a dream, but a challenge and obligation to pursue her calling in CS.
The road to this dream, however, was not smooth. Her first year, she and her classmate “half-joked” about shifting as they had difficulty adjusting. She even broke down after devoting an all-nighter and still failing to fix the error in her program. But through these experiences, she learned to stand up and face failure with a new disposition. From then on, she knew she selected the right path.
“It’s so nerdy.”
One of her favorite classes in college was algorithms. “The thought that a bunch of 0’s and 1’s can make a screen come alive in a boundless number of ways just astounds me even until now.”
“What I love is how [CS] forces us to learn on our own.” She was once told by her adviser that the purpose of school is to train them about what matters so they can learn by themselves right after. She once joined a hackathon and was amazed by how much she learned in a day. “The experience gives you an extra confidence boost that you can really learn anything rapidly if you set your mind to it, no matter how intimidating it may be.”
Chiara at Google’s Women Techmakers Scholars Program in Singapore.
One of her memorable moments was flying to Singapore for the Google’s Women Techmakers Scholars Program. She applied for a scholarship and was selected as one of 73 Asian women-in-tech scholars! “There was a different kind of energy in that room that I never experienced in my life before, and it propelled me into ideating on my own projects for local women in tech now.”
Pursuing her career in STEM
Before she graduated last June, Chiara joined a leading food delivery team when they were mid-launch for her internship back in 2018. “No two days were the same with my crazy fun and intelligent team.” Her supportive manager also assigned her projects that enabled her to utilize coding and data analysis skills.
Afterwards, Chiara spent her senior year as head of Training, Research, and Development in Ateneo Consultants for Organization Development and Empowerment, where she led 10 officers in implementing training programs for new recruits and regular members. Working for a student-based organization that acts as organization development consultants for other youth orgs, Chiara found her duties a ‘far cry’ from CS work. “Not using all your extracurricular time that can help you in career is especially risky when you’re in such a specialized field as CS,” she said. However, her involvement “sharpened [her] critical thinking skills, shaped [her] leadership style, and forced [her] to learn how to learn” — ultimately molding her analysis and communication skills today.
Presently, Chiara works with a data science consultancy, a diverse team that aims to help organizations succeed by maximizing the potential of their data.
As a Woman in Tech
Although Chiara did not find aggression in the classroom, she realized the subtle ways that being a woman makes learning different. She was too shy to ask questions when lessons were difficult in the fear of appearing ‘stupid’. She was burdened by the irrational worry that if she found a lesson difficult, others would generalize her skills to other women as well – and that slowed her down. “Even now, there’s still a fear that I’m way behind my peers.”
“I get a lot of ‘you don’t look like you’re from CS,’ which I’m never really sure if those were meant as compliments or insults. What’s a CS student supposed to look like anyway?”
Future of Tech
Chiara aims to train herself as a data scientist or explore artificial intelligence. She believes that their potential is very high. These fields also sharpen one’s decision-making and provide solutions to human problems beyond our own comprehension. “The idealistic me sees that that’s where changing the world lies.”
Chiara also sees so many opportunities for tech in the Philippines. “I’d love to see more advancements in IoT (Internet of things) so that we can collect more data to make smarter real-time decisions.” She also hopes that people would focus more on this relevant tech innovation: Fintech, as the convenience that comes with cashless transactions should not be neglected.
To the women out there!
Chiara also shared some wisdom for women who are terrified to pursue a career in tech:
“Go for it, headfirst.” Although intimidation could be a hurdle, hesitation should not be entertained. “Explore, join hackathons, take online courses––do things that interest you!”
“Ask questions.” When one does not understand the lesson or is having difficulty catching up, asking should be the first go-to solution.
“Find others you can relate to.” One way Chiara found courage in pursuing her dreams was finding people to relate to: from classmates to teachers and even friends abroad! For her, having people by her side was a stepping stone in overcoming loneliness and intimidation.
Written by: Kelly Punzalan
Edited by: Lauren Fajardo, Cebo Cruz
Interviewed by: Bea Rondon
Despite rising numbers of women in animation, the industry is still heavily male-dominated, with only 23.2% of jobs in the field held by women according to Animation Career Review. Marla Rausch thankfully did not have to endure the less-than-ideal treatment that many women in the technology industry are used to. Throughout her career, people naturally had formed biases and misconceptions towards her based on traditional gender stereotypes, but with hard work and the unwavering support of her husband and children, Rausch gained their respect and built meaningful professional relationships.
Prior to becoming the CEO and president of Animation Vertigo, Marla Rausch obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, majoring in Journalism, then ultimately worked as a motion capture tracker in the animation field. At the beginning of her career, clients often mistook her for a sales or marketing representative solely because of her sex. Rausch considers herself fortunate since this kind of assumption was the only form of discrimination she faced. She describes her experience as “relatively uneventful” compared to other women who have been harassed and bullied.
One of the challenges Rausch faced as an entrepreneur was handling a business with young children in the picture. Starting her company in the Philippines with her family residing in the United States separated her from her 2-year-old and 5-year-old for some period of time. This also meant frequently travelling from the Philippines to the U.S., not to mention the fact that she and her husband financed the company from the ground up. Instead of discouraging her, these obstacles pushed her even further to be a model of ambition and achievement for her children.
This go-getter attitude was inspired by Bernarditas de Castro-Muller, Rausch’s late grandmother and mentor. As a respected diplomat who had a hand in the negotiations for climate change in developing countries with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), de Castro-Muller was truly a force to be reckoned with.
“She was independent, strong-willed, stubborn – she didn’t conform to the traditional Asian woman stereotype even at a young age. She made me realize that I can make a difference and I can do it my way. She always had expectations from me and my cousins, and I’ve often felt the need to ensure to live up to them.”
Now a thriving business for nearly 15 years, Animation Vertigo works on motion capture animation and post-production for films, television, and video games. The company has clients from all over the world and has produced notable works such as Mortal Kombat X, Activision’s Call of Duty franchise, and Injustice: Gods Among Us. Rausch plans to take the company to the next level by becoming more involved in the growing animation industry here in the Philippines.
As a female CEO, Rausch makes it a point to advocate for women and gender equality in the workplace. At Animation Vertigo, they aim to promote a culture wherein one’s skills and strengths are valued, wherein quality of work and performance is given importance over gender biases.
Like Nike’s famous slogan, Rausch’s advice for girls who want to make it in the big and challenging world of tech is to just do it. Fear is something everyone experiences, but it shouldn’t be a reason to hold back.
“Don’t be afraid to fail because everyone does, take a moment to reflect on failure but get up and do it again. If you believe it hard enough and want something badly enough, nothing should be able to stop you. Find mentors, ask questions, don’t be afraid to learn, but do it.”
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Interview by: Emmanuel Cruz
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