Five grade 11 Riverside girls have taken upon themselves to create a new app. The app is called City Sprouts, and its goal is to help increase restaurant’s sustainability through user reviews. After eating at a restaurant, users can use the City Sprouts app to review the restaurant, based on their sustainability. The app will be entered into this year’s Technovation Girls tournament, a tournament that empowers female youth across the world to tackle a variety of important problems through the use of technology. The tournament features multiple rounds of competition beginning in January, and in August, the app which is found most innovative will be crowned winner at the Technovation Global Summit.
The five grade 11 Riverside students who worked to create City Sprouts are: Ella Gaspar, Mackenzie Clarke, Maya Pawley, Lauren Gunster and Olivia Gale. The five students worked in collaboration with Riverside teachers Ms. Melissa Jackson and Mr. Shane Ford, to help design the app. One student approached Mr. Ford about a sponsor for the project and looking to involve a female sponsor, he approached Ms. Jackson, who knew of some interested students who were in science co-op at the time. The two teachers worked together with the students in development of the app. “Both Shane and I worked with the teams in a supportive role. There were workshops available through SFU for the girls to attend to learn more about generating app ideas, creating business plans and programming apps. We would check-in with the teams regularly, but for the most part, the team who ended up submitting their app were self-sufficient and highly motivated,” said Ms. Jackson.
The five girls assembled, as they all shared a common goal of achieving sustainable change in the community. Although only Clarke had previous coding experience, all of the girls contributed in the app’s development in different ways. Gaspar and Gale were responsible for creating the app’s business plan, which included marketing, advertising, finding the target audience for the app and researching other similar apps in order to differentiate the app from others. Gunster was responsible for creating the pitch video. Pawley was responsible for community outreach, which included contacting a variety of different restaurants. Meanwhile, Clarke was responsible for the coding and electronic development of the app.
One of the biggest challenges that the group faced was dealing with the effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The pandemic meant that the entirety of the Technovision Girls tournament, including all presentation and judging had to occur online. Rather than their planned restaurant trials, they had to ask a few restaurant owners for their opinions on the app. “Our biggest challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic. We were unable to continue as we had wished, and communication became an issue. We responded to these issues by accepting the need to adjust our original plan and finding new ways to complete certain tasks,” said Gunster. Ms. Jackson also stated how the challenges that the group faced would have been enough for them to cancel their project all together. However, she stated that the group were very persistent, putting a lot of time and effort into the project, and that they all bring unique strengths to the table, while doing a great job communicating with each other.
This project has taught all those involved very important lessons, and all involved have gained very valuable experiences. “This experience has taught me to tackle new challenges even if they seem impossible. In the beginning, I was doubtful about my participation in Technovation Girls 2020 because I had never created a business plan before or learned about app management. Then I realized that I didn’t need to be an expert about marketing and promotion: I just needed to be determined enough to learn about running a business with my team members,” said Gaspar, “As a team, this experience has allowed us to achieve sustainable change within the community. This challenge has not only allowed us to learn more about sustainability and eco-friendliness, but it has also taught us more about ourselves, capabilities, and ambitions.”
City Sprouts will likely not be released to the public until March 2021. The group still has a variety of additional features that they would like to add. The group also wants to assure that the application is fully functional and running smoothly before they release it onto the App Store.