jrodriguez@mercurynews.com

MENLO PARK -- Many girls just wanna have fun, but some would like to innovate too.

Take Nikita Srivastava, for example. She's 12 and miffed that her cellphone's battery keeps running out of juice when there's no electrical outlet nearby or she forgot her charging cord. She figures there must be a better and faster way.

"My idea is to charge cellphones and other devices online," the Redwood City girl said Saturday afternoon at a special conference designed to inspire girls to become technology inventors, venture capitalists, software writers and innovators of all sorts.

About 75 girls and parents crammed into the offices of the Kilpatrick, Townsend and Stockton law firm for the first Girls Innovate forum, a free and public event organized by AWE, a new volunteer group organized by Asian-American women in Silicon Valley.

A few girls seated around Nikita agreed that her cellphone charging idea sounded cool. And so did their discussion leader, Andrea Lo, founder and chief executive of Piggybackr, an online tool that teaches young people how to raise money for their teams, projects and causes.

Then Lo lowered the boom in a nice way, not just on Nikita but the other girls brave enough to describe their entrepreneurial ideas.

How far along are you? Lo asked. What's your next step? she inquired further.


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Little steps are important and can take a long time, but never quit, Lo said. She was so tactful that the girls didn't mind being put on the spot and gladly offered each other advice.

One girl, named Lea, wanted to write a book on how to prepare for middle school. Another, Rachel, wanted to start a blog on drug abuse in high school, but she voiced a common response against young people taking on big issues.

Rachel, also 12, said her idea has stalled. "I'm stuck because everyone is saying, 'You're too young to do anything about drugs, and you can't handle it.' "

With help, she came up with the next step: She will scour the Web for blogs written by 12-year-old crusaders to learn how they do it.

Nikita left happy, too.

"I was having problems, like getting to the next step," Nikita said after Lo's session.

As it turned out, Nikita's next step was to share her ideas with others and collect feedback on her challenging idea. "This really helped me, in a way, to find the solution."

AWE isn't an acronym for Asian women entrepreneurs or anything like that. It's simply the word for overwhelming wonder.

The group is the brainchild of Uyen Le Kry, a freelance writer and lawyer from Pleasanton whose 9-year-old daughter attended the event. A Vietnamese boat refugee at age 7, Kry started the group to engage Asian girls and their mothers in open forums, challenging them to pursue work and interests traditionally reserved in Asian cultures for boys and men.

Although Saturday's forum was about innovation, the group's talks ranged from finance to fine arts and writing.

Girls Innovate proved so popular--125 people were turned away on Saturday for lack of space -- that another may be held as early as June.

For more information, go to www.awejournal.com or www.girlsinnovate.org.

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767.