Technology

INTERVIEW - Female Coder Problem-solves Through Apps

Cambodia’s youngest female techie is hoping to inspire other girls to enter the sector as she becomes the nation’s first participant in the TechGirls programme in America this summer.
Kao Menghorng attends a training with her team at Technovation Girls 2022
Kao Menghorng attends a training with her team at Technovation Girls 2022

At the age of 16, Kao Menghorng is known by many as the youngest tech girl in the country – and she’s trying to bring positive impacts and provide solutions to problems.

Technology has deep roots with Menghorng, of Kompong Cham province. At 12-years-old, the then Grade 8 student started to learn about coding through code.org, a nonprofit education platform that teaches innovation and computer science.

Two years later, Menghorng created an app – All About Chemistry – for students to learn about chemistry and exercise.

The app, which is on the Android and Apple stores – allows students to find lessons and exercises for Grade 7, 8 and 9 students, and help them and teachers share their work.

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Kao Menghorng poses with an award with her parents Kao Sangha and Kuy Kimsrorn
Kao Menghorng poses with an award with her parents Kao Sangha and Kuy Kimsrorn

“When I began using the computer, I was interested in it. I am fascinated by technology,” Menghorng said.

A year later, in 2021, Menghorng created another app – E-listening & Speaking. It allows students to learn and speak English.

She created another app this year called E-Stem, which focuses on shifting from traditional ways of learning from teachers and books to STEM ways of researching and applying learning into practice.

Menghorng has worked on these projects with her friends and has won multiple awards and cash prizes.

In July, she will attend a summer exchange in the United States. This is the first time the opportunity has been given to Cambodia.

Menghorng will travel with students Savun Vathana and Narin Ratanatepy from E2Stem Education and Sisowath Highschool. The trip takes three weeks in which girls from other countries will also visit Virginia Tech University to learn about coding, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other major museums in Washington DC.

Kao Menghorn hope her active engagement in IT will encourage more young girls to enter the sector.
Kao Menghorn hope her active engagement in IT will encourage more young girls to enter the sector.

TechGirls is an international summer exchange program under the US State Department, designed to empower and inspire young women from around the world to pursue careers in science and technology.

According to its website, TechGirls participate in an interactive technology and computer camp, then travel to one of the following cities, Austin, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Portland, or Seattle, for job shadowing at a tech company, a homestay and community service experiences.

The TechGirls programming yields a multiplier effect as participants return home to conduct community-based projects with five months of mentorship, the website said.

The trip will be the first-time Menghorng, who is now in Grade 11, has travelled abroad and she is excited. Her family is completely supportive of her work, she said.

“We cannot be like a frog inside a well, we must leave our comfort zone and see the outside world. We can learn from others,” she said.

“I hope I will be more confident because leaving my comfort zone makes me present ideas to others. This will bring me experiences and more bravery.”

During the US trip, Menghorn hopes to learn more about coding. She is currently working on using apps to control things, such as robots and to turn lights on and off. She is also hopeful to learn about leadership and more from those who will attend the program during the trip.

Menghorn’s father, Kao Sangha, is a teacher at her school and mother, Kuy Kimsrorn, is a vendor at a nearby market. Menghorng’s older brother studies marketing.

She had only wanted to become a doctor, but her wish had changed during Covid19, in which she had a lot of time attending various tech events online. Then, Menghorng became interested in coding.

“I want to become a software developer and creator of apps,” she said. “We have visions to use technology to create tools, such as mobile apps and software, to help improve the education in Cambodia,” Menghorng said.

“When my parents knew about my change of what I like to technology, they were happy, and when I wanted to buy a computer, they bought it for me.”

For Menghorng, girls lag in the technology sector and she wants more girls to join. She hopes her active engagement in IT will encourage more young girls to enter the sector.

“I think a lot of girls should join technology. Even if they don’t find work there, they should get more involved.”

“I try to be a model to others that as a girl you can join the technology sector and especially even living in rural areas, like me, can still be involved in technology. I want all girls to try first. Many girls are afraid of failure, but my opinion is they should try first.”

“In the future, I would like to see many girls in technology creating new products that can help develop our country.”