03 August, 2017
A group of Cambodian girls will compete for the first time in an international technology competition in California's Silicon Valley.
The girls are between the ages of 11
The competition is called the Technovation World Pitch Summit. It takes place at the headquarters of Google in Mountainview, California from August 7 to 11.
The girls created an app called the "Cambodia Identity Product." It promotes traditional Khmer products.
Khmer refers to people, languages, or culture from Cambodia.
The Technovation challenge is a global competition, created by the non-profit group Iridescent. The group aims to raise interest in what are called STEM subjects among girls between the ages of 10 and 18 around the world. STEM subjects are the fields of science, technology engineering and mathematics.
This year the competition selected 12 finalist teams. Six teams will compete in the junior category, which includes the Cambodian team. They will compete against teams from India, Canada, the United States and Hong Kong.
To prepare for the competition, the teams took part in a 12-week training course in coding and entrepreneurship. They then had to create an app that addresses at least one of the areas covered by the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.
Proud of their hard work
The girls are students at the Ligar Learning Center near Phnom Pehn. It is a school operated by a non-governmental organization for promising students who cannot pay for a good education.
According to Tes Putthira, the Cambodian team's mentor, the Cambodian girls worked hard to make it to the finals.
"On the day we learned about the results, no one could focus on work. We were very pleased and proud of them that this year, in 2017, Technovation Cambodia had made it into the finals in the United States, in San Francisco," she said.
She also said the school was very excited that the girls had succeeded up to this point. She said, "We will do our best to support them into the finals."
The girls' app will promote traditional Khmer products such as clothes, hats and souvenirs. This will help bring money to craftspeople, who would be able to sell their products directly to customers, and internationally.
Role models for other girls
The Technovation project first began in the country in 2014. It is organized by USAID in partnership with Cambodia's education ministry, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.
Sotie Heidt, the wife of the current ambassador to Cambodia, visited the Ligar Learning Center. She said she was pleased that a Cambodian team had made it to the final.
"When they are interested in this early on, they will be good at it from a young age. So, we should remove any barriers and encourage them to develop expertise in the field and they can be as capable as children in other countries," she said.
The winners of this year's Technovation can expect to receive a total of $145,000 in award money.
Putthira hopes that with their strong support at home, the Cambodian team can win the competition. However, she says that, no matter what the outcome, the girls will be examples for other Cambodian girls interested in technology.
I'm Phil Dierking
Sophat Soeung wrote this story for VOA News. Phil Dierking adapted his report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
app - n. a computer program that performs a special function
capable - adj. having the qualities or abilities that are needed to do something
coding - v. to change (information) into a set of letters, numbers, or symbols that can be read by a computer
entrepreneurship - n. the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.
entries - n. people or things that have entered something