A Team Of Teen Girls Is Using Code To Change The Way We Think About DUIs

Tech? Girl power? We're in.

Tech is a field that's sadly, unfortunately, regrettably dominated by dudes. Though it's 2015, the current titans of tech are overwhelmingly male: According to The Huffington Post, "At Google, women make up 30 percent of the company's overall workforce, but hold only 17 percent of the company's tech jobs. At Facebook, 15 percent of tech roles are staffed by women. At Twitter, it's a laughable 10 percent."

But a team of five teen girls from Winchester, Massachusetts is not about to let that sexist sh-t fly. The group, called Team AMEKA, has developed an app called SafeGuard Driving, which seeks to prevent teens from driving while impaired. They hope their app will make a difference, but the team has already done just that -- by garnering national attention for their innovation, they're inspiring their female peers to get into coding.

Team AMEKA/Facebook

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The girls, whose team name is taken from the first letter of each of their names, found each other at school.

"I had taken an elective course in computer science and heard about the [Technovation] competition through my teacher," Alexis Costales, Team AMEKA member, told MTV News. "And then, I contacted some friends of mine, one being [Team AMEKA member Annie Wu], and we kind of just got together with a few other people that we had heard wanted to do it and that's how we formed our team."

Each of the girls play a crucial role in the team's overall cohesion: "I'm more of the numbers person," Annie Wu said. "So I did the stats and communications stuff." Alexis, on the other hand, called herself a "jack of all trades," while Eliza Albert is the main coder of the team.

AMEKA was motivated to make the app based on issues that are literally and figuratively close to home. "What we did was, during this past year, there have been some car accidents in our town regarding impaired driving," Annie said. "So we spent one of the Technovation meetings just having a big poster and writing 'community' in the middle and just branching off of it, writing random terms. And that got us thinking to drunk driving and then we decided to expand that to impaired driving and finding a solution to it."

"We had searched on the Google Store and the Apple Store, just for apps that were made for drunk driving, but most of them have been games," Annie said. "They're all for entertainment purposes only. So we decided to make one that, instead of using it as like a breathalyzer, you could just use the mobile application."

How does it work? "Basically, the app is three tests that make up a total of five tasks, and the three of them assess balance, reaction and attention," Eliza explained. She noted that "at the beginning, you input your emergency contact into the app," and that "after taking all the tests, if you do fail, it would send a text message alerting your emergency contact that you had failed."

"And then it would give you the option to call your emergency contact or a taxi service such as Uber," Eliza said.

Much of Team AMEKA's journey with SafeGuard is chronicled in the recently released documentary, "CodeGirl," which centers around the annual Technovation competition. Though they didn't take the $10,000 top prize, they were named as finalists.

Team AMEKA/Facebook


The girls said that the competition had rewarded them in ways that had nothing to do with money. "I think for all of us, it was really exciting to get to work together as a team and come up with this great idea that has the potential in the future," Alexis said. "It was really cool to get to meet people from all over the world and collaborate with professionals in the business -- we got to collaborate with people from Apple and Amazon and Twitter."

Annie found that the competition helped inspire her plans for the future. "After going through Technovation, meeting all the leaders in the business and the field, I now know the direction of what I want to pursue -- something in entrepreneurship, combining tech with business," she said.

Team AMEKA/Facebook

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Currently, the girls are still working on SafeGuard, making it compatible with a user's car. "We are also trying to implement in our app is something called ignition interlock," Alexis explained. "So what would happen is if the user did fail the test, they would not be able to start their car, which is really important because they would not be able to put themselves in a dangerous situation. And we've talked to the [insurance] agencies and car companies and they said the technology is out there, we just have to go through the state and get all the legal business dealt with."

The girls all agreed that tech needs more ... well, girls.

"I think it's important for girls to learn how to code because right now, it is kind of a boy's game," Alexis said. "I mean, in the documentary, they discussed how only 7 percent of tech start-ups are lead by women. And if we get more girls interested in the field of technology and even things like entrepreneurship, I think it will be better for the future that more women are involved in these fields."

Of course, there's an added bonus to coding: It's f--king badass.

"I think another thing is that it's fun," Eliza said. "I mean, you're creating something that you can be creative with. You can basically do anything with coding and it actually turns out it's a fun thing you can do."

To learn more about hidden biases and women in STEM, visit Look Different.

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