Girls Who Code Helps Teenage Girls Do Great Things

Posted by | August 18, 2015 | Opinion | One Comment

We’re just finding out about the games and apps that the teenagers who attended the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program are creating. They’re pretty magnificent. The Washington Post’s Faiz Siddiqui reported on the final showcase of the event.

The Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program is a 7-week intensive computer science course that embeds classrooms in technology companies and universities. According to their website, “girls learn everything from robotics to mobile development to HTML and CSS while gaining exposure to the tech industry and receiving valuable mentorship from women working in technology.”

The attendees’ goal was to “solve an everyday problem with coding.” This particular camp took place this July and August with about 60 students attending. Overall there were 19 programs all over the country. Girls Who Code’s mission to increase the number of women in technology.

According to the Girls Who Code website, in middle school 74% of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, only 0.4% choose computer science. Women make up only 18% of computer science graduates. That’s significantly down from 30 years ago, when that number was 37%. (Those numbers are also pretty bad for people of color and other marginalized groups, by the way. That’s something Girls Who Code seems to be aware of given their call for a diverse range of applicants.)

There are many reasons for all this, but at least part of the equation is the lack of visibility for girls and women in the industry. The stereotype is that a computer scientist or programmer is a man (and typically a young white man). Younger girls have trouble visualizing themselves in those fields. And they are often made to feel unwelcome when they do make forays into computer science. The problems don’t necessarily go away once they enter the professional workforce, unfortunately.

But on to the exciting part. The Washington Post interviewed some of the teams that attended the Girls Who Code camp about the apps that they are designing and building. There’s some pretty neat stuff coming out of the project. India Bhalla-Ladd, 15, Sara Berrios, 17, Stephanie Villanueva, also 17, and Alyssa Berman, are creating an app called Plantech. They’ve hooked up houseplants to sensory technology. The app tells you when your plant needs water or is in less-than-optimal conditions. “Every person has, at one point, forgotten to water their plant,” said Berrios. LED lights flash when the plant is upset about something, like a too-cold temperature or not enough light.

Another team is making an app where you navigate a stream in a kayak and clean up oil spills. There’s one app that aims to set users up with their ideal pet and guide them to the correct shelter to find it. Li-Ting Song, 16, and Milena Orbach, 17, are making an app that helps users find restaurants based on any number of dietary restrictions. Taiylor Waysome, 17, and Devin McCoy, 15, are creating a website called “Curl Kind” in an effort to help girls with curly and textured hair take care of their locks. Waysome said she’d messed up her hair in the past, and didn’t want others to go through that. More importantly, the website will offer emotional support. “If you don’t see someone who looks like you, you tend to think it’s wrong,” said McCoy. “It’s the same thing with hair. We want people to grow up feeling good about themselves and their hair.”

These young women all have different reasons for their interest in coding. Some want to enter the workforce as computer scientists. Others enjoy gaming or tinkering with websites. Aditi Sundararaman, 15, mentioned (while laughing) that her initial interest arose from trying to get around her parents’ parental control limits when she was younger. But many of them simply find coding empowering.

Keezy Young

About Keezy Young

Keezy is a gamer, illustrator, and designer. Her background is in teaching and tutoring kids from ages 9 to 19, and she's led workshops for young women in STEM. She is also holds a certificate in teaching English. Her first memory of gaming is when her dad taught her to play the first Warcraft when she was five. You can find her at Key of Zee and on Twitter @KeezyBees.