Jennie Lamere was the only female to present a completed project at a national coding competition in Boston. At just 17 years old, she's a lone tech-head at her all-girls school and wound up being the only participant in the TVnext Hack event to work alone. But none of that stopped the Nashua, N.H. native from going on to win the grand prize in April for her Twivo Twitter app.
The Chrome app solves a big problem for TV fans on the microblogging service — spoilers. The Twitterverse is rife with them, especially if you're behind on a particular show. Enter Twivo. The program allows users to block mentions of certain shows for a designated period of time. So if you're behind on Hannibal, Game of Thrones or The Following, you can block people like Kevin Bacon from spoiling plotlines.
That simple, yet insightful solution to a common problem must have taken Lamere weeks or months to suss out, right? Wrong. The app took her 10 hours and 150 lines of code, which she crammed in the night before. Then again, who needs weeks of sweat and worry when you've got natural-born talent? After all, her dad is also a developer, so it was probably in her genes. She wound up beating out professional developers, even those from the event's sponsors, which included ESPN, the Echo Nest and Klout.
Lamere shot to the top of her subcategory, "best use of sync-to-broadcast," to rule overall in "best in show." Interesting note: She got plenty of Apple swag, including iPad minis and an Apple TV, but we have a feeling she would've probably preferred some Galaxy tablets. The teen aspires to work at Google someday.
The New Hampshire student is an excellent example of why tech needs more girls, perhaps now more than ever. When it comes gender equilibrium, the industry seems to be slipping. Females account for only 12 percent of computer science graduates, down from 37 percent in 1984, says Girls Who Code, an organization dedicated to helping young women pursue science and technology. Lamere saw that statistic play out in the real world. As a high school senior who likes building robots, hiking, and competing in "hackathons," she's typically the only one at her school who shows any interest in these types of events. And she was only one of a handful of females at the whole competition.
"Boys and girls are neck and neck academically in school until puberty, when girls tend to veer off from tech," says Ashley Swartz, CEO of Furious Minds and one of the competition judges. "Jen is going to be the only chick in the room for a very long time, and my responsibility is to give her opportunities that I didn't have."
Part of that might be a business deal. Furious Minds has already approached Lamere about Twivo, offering to help market the final version of the application once it's ready in a few weeks.