Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
June 2022. I couldn’t focus. My mind was preoccupied with a new idea. A new project, based on my memories of technology competitions. I opened up my phone and started putting my thoughts into words: “HackMundo 2.0, a new hackathon edition for STEM for Gals ”.
Seven months later, I was launching a four-week virtual hackathon for over 130 girls and 40 mentors, hosting live workshops every week, and striving to support my team at the organization STEM para as Minas (“STEM for Gals”).
How did all of this happen in the first place? Let me tell you about my journey from idea to launched project and how you can impact your community with the Girl Up Project Awards too!
But first, I should introduce you to STEM para as Minas (SPM). Founded in 2019, SPM is a student-run organization that aims to democratize opportunities in STEM fields for girls and non-binary individuals. To do so, we share weekly extracurricular opportunities on our social media, promote connections in our online communities, and host direct-impact programs in technology and science research including:
- Hack Mundo: Our online hackathon
- Pesquisa para Elas: Our research mentorship program
Today, we have almost 40 volunteers and more than 12,000 followers on social media!
I first heard of SPM in 2020 through a friend who was already volunteering with the team. At the time, the organization was hosting its pilot version of HackMundo. I had never participated in a hackathon before, yet I was motivated to join through the fact that the event was meant for girls with little to no experience in programming. My friend and I joined forces and signed up for the competition as a team.
Although our project wasn’t among the award-winners, being a part of HackMundo was my first experience with project development and it ignited a passion to advance my technology journey. After HackMundo 1.0, I joined the SPM team to become an active leader for the organization’s mission and started pursuing different tech competitions.
One of them was the Technovation Girls Challenge. I competed in 2021 and in the following editions, I became a Student Ambassador for Brazil and a Judge Advisor. My experiences with Technovation made me realize the impact potential of beginner-friendly and girl-centered technology competitions. How could I deliver a transformative learning experience, akin to Technovation, in my country of Brasil? This question kept bouncing in the back of my head until it collided with my volunteer work at SPM.
Since I was in my gap year in early 2022, I figured it would be the ideal time for me to coordinate and launch this new version of the competition. The idea for HackMundo 2.0 was born.
After pitching my idea to our board of directors, I committed full responsibility towards the project with two main allies: Isabele Vitório, SPM founder, and Catharina Moral, an incredible software engineer I met through a project mentorship program from a peer social impact initiative ElaSTEMpoder. They helped me organize my ideas and plan strategically to fulfill all the project’s goals up to the launch. Soon, I could start to build the hackathon sub-team with my SPM co-volunteers, each with a unique skill, from communication to design.
While doing those activities, I received an invite from Girl Up about a new STEM for Social Good Bootcamp, a serendipitous encounter that ended up becoming a funding opportunity for HackMundo.
Through that bootcamp, I heard about the Girl Up Project Awards and was immediately interested in applying. After planning for the hackathon’s awards and potential expenses, I sent my application. Girl Up awarded me USD $500 to invest in hackathon awards and that grant became the organization’s first financial resource—essential to afford our customized medals and merchandise kit.
With a project plan, funds, and a motivated team, the magic of execution was unlocked. Over the next six months, I would oversee the team operations, designs, invitations to speakers, and other partnerships. When our registration opened in December 2022, I couldn’t believe how much time had flown by since July!
Ultimately, HackMundo was launched in January 2023. A fully virtual and free hackathon meant to inspire and guide 14 to 19-year-old Brazilian girls to develop a mobile application that addresses an issue related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in their communities. The competition comprised of four thematic weeks, each focused on the main stages of an early product development process, from ideation to technical demo recording.
The 2023 edition provided me with many victories and meaningful lessons. I could establish partnerships with Technovation Girls Brazil and the renowned Brazilian NGO Fundação Estudar (“Estudar Foundation”), invite several female leaders in STEM and entrepreneurship, and lead a team to organize an event that reached 135 girls and 45 mentors across 52 teams. 80 percent of these groups delivered their projects to HackMundo and 70 percent of the participants learned to program for the first time in HackMundo.
The competition also featured different spectrums of diversity. We welcomed attendees from 23 Brazilian states where 47 percent self-declared as black and mixed-race and 21 percent identified themselves as LGBTQIAP+. In addition, 7 of the 9 members of the winning teams are from public schools or scholarship holders in private schools.
Faced with such promising results, I want to go further, seeking to scale the operational and financial sustainability of the initiative so we can hopefully become Brazil’s largest girl-centered hackathon! I’m beyond grateful for having Girl Up as our first financial supporter and I hope you can also take advantage of the wonderful opportunity of the Project Awards.
I want to go further…so we can hopefully become Brazil’s largest girl-centered hackathon!
Are you a Brazilian who is interested in joining this initiative? SPM’s Direct Impact team is currently looking for highly engaged and motivated volunteers passionate about STEM and gender equality to bring even more exciting ideas to the table. Apply for a volunteer position and help launch the next HackMundo!
Marina L. is a Girl Up Project Award Winner from Brasília, Brazil. She is a self-taught programmer passionate about empowering and guiding Brazilian girls to view technology beyond the code and as a transformative tool to solve complex, real-world problems in their communities. Her interests range from Social Entrepreneurship and Science Olympiads to data science and artificial intelligence. Currently, Marina works with Data and Analytics at Fundação Estudar and volunteers at the organization STEM para as MInas (STEM for Gals) as the Direct Impact Director. Previously, she was a global award-winner at the Technovation Girls Challenge 2021, and in the subsequent edition acted as a Student Ambassador and Judge Advisor. In her free time, she enjoys reading non-fiction books on math, creativity, and innovation and attending ballet classes.