Teams from two East Bay high schools are finalists in the Technovation Challenge, a global competition for girls and women ages 10 to 23 who create apps that can help solve global problems.

Four girls from Northgate High in Walnut Creek will compete against four girls from Irvington High in Fremont and eight other high school, middle school and university teams from around the world to be named the winner during a World Pitch event Wednesday at Intel in Santa Clara.

Female executives from LinkedIn, Dropbox and the Los Angeles tech startup Enplug will judge the finalists based on their live pitches, the appeal of their applications, their market analyses and business models, among other factors, said Judy Ho, Bay Area Technovation Director.

Michelle Liang, 16, of Concord, from left, Ami Yen, 17, of Walnut Creek, Shion Andrew, 16, of Walnut Creek, and Nishtha Chavda, 16, of Walnut Creek, are
Michelle Liang, 16, of Concord, from left, Ami Yen, 17, of Walnut Creek, Shion Andrew, 16, of Walnut Creek, and Nishtha Chavda, 16, of Walnut Creek, are photographed holding up devices displaying the app they created called Unwind at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Thursday, June 12, 2014. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

"Women are grossly outnumbered in engineering and technology," Ho said. "About 12 percent of computer science graduates are female. In the workplace, about one in seven are female."

But the Technovation Challenge proves there are plenty of girls with the potential to become engineers. The competition has grown from 43 participants when it began five years ago to 1,500 this year, Ho said.

Participants work with a tech industry mentor and a Technovation curriculum created by the nonprofit Iridescent, which includes user-friendly software for creating apps.

The Walnut Creek team, which calls itself the Northgate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Girls, includes 16-year-old juniors Michelle Liang, Nishtha Chavada and Shion Andrew and their 17-year-old classmate Ami Yuen. They created the Unwind app, which helps people relax after feeling stressed.

The Fremont team includes 15-year-old teammates Sriya Lingampalli, Jessica Singh and twin sisters Anjali and Anushka Walia, who created a Foodini app that helps people communicate food allergies and dietary restrictions in different languages.

The Unwind app includes simulated Bubble Wrap that can be popped, along with a digital journal that allows people to record their feelings after stressful situations.

"We noticed how stressed out people were at Northgate, especially students who take Advanced Placement or honors courses," Liang said. "Sometimes when you're under stress, you don't have time to do yoga or seek help."

The girls are excited about their app because it could be used by anyone who is feeling stress, giving it broad appeal. Their mentor, Christine Matheny -- a Microsoft "evangelist" who helps people build apps -- said Unwind fills a need not currently met by existing apps.

"I think these girls have found a niche," she said. "You can keep track of what's stressing to you in your pocket."

Technical Evangelist with Microsoft and team mentor Christine Matheney sits with Northgate High School mathematics and engineering teacher Mark A. Tobin as
Technical Evangelist with Microsoft and team mentor Christine Matheney sits with Northgate High School mathematics and engineering teacher Mark A. Tobin as they are photographed at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Thursday, June 12, 2014. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

The Fremont team developed the Foodini app after the Walia sisters, who are fatally allergic to several foods, including all types of nuts, experienced one too many meal-related medical emergencies. In the past, the sisters wrote their dietary restrictions on paper when eating out, but they found restaurant workers overseas didn't always understand their questions.

When one London waiter who didn't speak English unwittingly served them a dessert with cashews, the sisters almost died. Their app helps users avoid that danger.

It translates their dietary restrictions into different languages, which can be especially handy for travelers using smartphones, Lingampalli said. The foursome hopes their app helps people, especially young people like themselves.

"Teens like to try new things, and it's not fair for them to have limitations," Singh said. "They should have an opportunity to enjoy life, without limits."

if you go:
The Technovation World Pitch challenge will take place from 5:30-9 p.m. Wednesday at Intel, 3600 Juliette Lane in Santa Clara.
For more information and to register, go to www.technovationchallenge.org/world-pitch-2014.
To see video clips of the East Bay teams, go to www.contracostatimes.com/education.