Founder of App Camps predicts "digital future"

14 November 2018
Dr. Diana Knodel, founder of App Camps for young people, tells Hamburg News about her vision

April 2018 saw the launch of the StartupSpotFemale Founders – a national database for start-ups with at least one female founder. Created by Sanja Stankovic and Sina Gritzuhn, whose private initiative Hamburg Startups has become an indispensable part of the Hanseatic start-up scene, the platform is now accessible all over Germany. By November 2018, the database already had 395 start-ups of which 15.7 per cent are in the tech industry.

Founder and ambassador Dr. Diana Knodel  

Knodel is at home in the sector. As part of her Ph.D., the media informatics graduate developed an E-mentoring programme for girls in the mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology (MINT) field. In 2010, the Baden-Württemberg native settled in Hamburg, where she first worked as a project and team leader in the IT industry and then as a product manager at Xing. Along the way, she and her husband, Philipp, have volunteered repeatedly – especially for girls and disadvantaged young people. In 2014, they founded the non-profit start-up App Camps to encourage young people to learn computer science and digital topics. As well as promoting the start-up Female Founders, Knodel is now targeting greater visibility for female founders. In an interview with Hamburg News, she talks about her vision, milestones and the opportunity to help shape a digital world.

Hamburg News: What is the goal of App Camps?

Diana: Our vision is that all children and young people have digital skills to succeed in the digital world…regardless of gender or social background. The future will be digital, which is why all parts of society must be given the opportunity to shape the future.

Hamburg News: How are you realizing this vision?

Diana: We want to strengthen young people’s digital skills with App Camps. To this end, we are developing teaching materials e.g. app development, the graphic programming language Scratch or HTML & CSS. These documents are free of charge for teachers. In addition to learning crucial digital skills, students gain insight into the world of work and experience role models in the digital industry. 

We are targeting girls in particular and are using several female role models in our videos to get them interested in programming. We have, for instance, integrated short interviews with software developers into our documents’ end videos. And we always organize events for girls only. Since September 2018, we have been organizing the Mädchen Digital Club in Hamburg, where girls develop their own digital products and get to know women in the IT sector. 

Hamburg News: How are you funding your work?

Diana: We are non-profit and our services are free of charge for teachers. Therefore, we rely on foundations and companies for funds. We have great partners who have supported us from the very start. Yet, we are always looking for new sponsors. We would be particularly pleased to attract even more companies in Hamburg as partners and sponsors. 

Hamburg News: What important milestones have you reached with App Camps so far?

Diana: Our most important milestone was to see that our concept actually works and that we can scale our approach: During the last school year, we reached over 70,000 students. We also won several awards and prizes including the Google Impact Challenge 2016.

Hamburg News: How many people are in your team? What is the proportion of men and women?

Diana: There are seven people in the main team and we also work with some freelancers. In fact, we have far more women (computer scientists) in the team, which simply evolved over the years.

Hamburg News: How important is Hamburg to you as the seat of your headquarters?

Diana: We feel very comfortable in Hamburg and are well networked through App Camps. The Hanseatic city has a great start-up scene and many exciting digital companies with which we like to implement smaller projects. We brought teachers and the digital industry together at the Digital Summit, for instance, in March 2018. Otto, Xing, Google, Jimdo, Facelift and Facebook invited teachers and showed them how they work. That was great – for both parties. In 2019, we will definitely repeat the Digital Summit, which we organize with the Körber Foundation. 

Hamburg News: What would like to see happen in future?

Diana*: An educational landscape that gives all children equal opportunities. We are just starting a second project called Fobizz, which is an online training for teachers in IT, media and digitalisation. We are convinced that such an offer for teachers is an important contribution to truly fair education.  

Hamburg News: Many thanks for the interview, Diana!

Interview by Sarah Bischoff

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