Cool idea: girls win $3,000 prize for fridge app
Tired of wondering what that smell is coming from the back of the fridge? BHS teens Natalie Calderon and Madison Thompson might have an app for that.
The 16-year-olds’ idea for an app to reduce food wastage has won them $3,000 in the Bermuda Economic Development Company’s annual Rocket Pitch Competition.
The Meal Deal BDA uses a barcode scanner to record the food users buy, warns when it is about to go bad and suggests recipes for using it up before then.
“I got the idea from the movie Clueless,” Madison said. “The main character, Cher, has a machine that documents all her clothes and then picks out outfits for her. I wondered if we could do the same thing for food and have it pick out recipes for you.”
They were shocked by the findings of their research.
“I learnt that 22 per cent of Bermuda’s total waste is food,” Madison said.
“The average Bermudian wastes about $3,000 a year throwing food out. You will buy it for something and then it expires or you forget about it. It is a cycle.”
Natalie said it was definitely a problem experienced by her parents, Richard and Melanie Calderon.
“My mom forgets that she has bought something and then buys more and then it will go bad and she has to throw it away,” she said.
“We get halfway through the strawberries and then they go bad and we have to throw them out.”
The girls received mixed reactions to their idea.
For Madison, the hardest thing was pushing out the negative feedback and committing to entering the annual competition, which they learnt about in assembly at BHS.
“I remember sitting next to Natalie I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to do that’,” she said. “And then we did it. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get an idea out there and seek potential sponsors and to really expand.
“I brought an interest in business, and she brought the speaking skills.”
Natalie added: “The debate coaches here are always asking me to join, but I just never have. But my parents always put me on the spot with different questions, so I’ve learnt to think quickly. Global politics is my favourite class.
“I haven’t closed the door on business, though. The process of getting a business started is really interesting.”
Madison is more interested in marketing.
The pair found the semi-finals of the competition to be nerve-racking. They were up against 11 other students, including two from their own school, who all seemed to have great ideas.
“I thought, this isn’t strong enough,” Madison said. “We were last, so we were listening to everyone else’s pitches. We were like, OK, she won.”
But they received some helpful feedback from the judges.
“They asked us about the barcode scanning,” said Madison, adding that they had consulted an expert before their pitch.
“They asked why we had chosen to do it that way and if we thought that would be plausible. There are ways to do barcode scanning on your phone.”
American entrepreneur Stacey Ferreira was one of the judges. The co-founder of online password vault MySocialCloud described their idea as “really interesting”, and passed on her address.
The girls were thrilled when they found out they had won the Youth Pitch category of the competition.
“I was like, ‘I made it!’,” Madison said. The win left her mother, Terry-Lynn Thompson, in tears.
The girls plan to use their prize winnings to develop their app.
“It’s still just an idea,” Madison said. “We are looking at getting our idea copyrighted and potential sponsors.”
One of the best things about the project was that it helped build her confidence.
“I have learnt I can do it,” she said. “If I really want something then I can achieve it. If you speak things into existence, then you will see it.”
Natalie developed a greater appreciation for app designers and is hoping more females here enter the field.
“There are still gaps especially in the business world, not just with income, but also with opportunities.
“It was really interesting to see the amount of support we got from all our teachers to take it to the next step. It is really important to recognise from a young age that it doesn’t matter that we are girls.
“We should be getting the same opportunities. We are just as qualified and able and we are going to put ourselves out there.”
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