YEREVAN — Not many people can say they’ve created and led their own hackathon. And even fewer can say they did so at just 16, but Ani Petrosyan is an exception. Petrosyan born and raised in Armenia is now 17, and had the idea to create her own hackathon called Girlopolis (City of Girls), after seeing the lack of opportunities for young Armenian women to get involved in IT and entrepreneurship. By teaching workshops through Girlopolis, Ani hoped to create a platform where women encourage and support one another in IT, learn new skills and have their network.
Petrosyan, who learned to code at the age of 12, has always been seeking opportunities to further her passion in STEM and IT. Her inspiration was having a female role model, her robotics teacher, that encouraged her to get into the often male dominated field. Over the years, Ani noticed more barriers in advancing her studies such as the fact that hackathons and events tended to be held in English and outside of Armenia, some of which she herself participated in. “It was so exciting to join and work with other youth in hackathons abroad, and I thought to myself ‘Why isn’t there something like this for girls in Armenia?’”. And after recognizing the void, Petrosyan decided to create Girlopolis and apply for grants to finance her vision to bring hackathons home. Ultimately it was a huge success.
The applications to join Girlopolis’s initial online event in March 2021 had more than 300, but initially the hackathon only had the capacity to support 50 participants. During the actual hackathon, which ran for three days, girls aged 18-35 were randomly divided into teams, grouped into them by different specialties, and tasked with coming up with startup ideas for problems in the world. Additionally, invited speakers gave advice in their areas of specialty, and also shared their expertise on how to get the finances to actualize ideas participants came up with.
Seeing such high demand, they’ve had more events in person in the summer, hosting over 900 young women in various events. “We are trying to get them to be open, and on the first day compared to last they are such different people.” Petrosyan describes a feeling of immense pride and excitement when she sees “citizens” of Girlopolis to pursue the ideas generated at the hackathons. As far as the future, Ani wishes to continue inspiring more young people to get engaged in IT and STEM, and has an idea to create a large science museum or STEM city in Armenia, something which again she has seen abroad but lacks in the country. Her message to young adults who wish to help Armenia? “Take the time to help other young people, after all we are the future. Sadly, many youth don’t have many opportunities to do things they dream about or even get the education necessary for it,” emphasizing that no amount of support is too small.
(This article is Part I of the series Inspiring Armenian Young Adults, which highlights the accomplishments of 4 of Armenia’s brightest, bravest young adults. Their brief profiles showcase the talents of Armenia’s upcoming generation and shed light on their impressive accomplishments thus far.)