PIQUA — The Piqua YWCA began a program this year aimed at helping keep girls interested science and technology while also boosting their confidence toward learning coding.
The Piqua YWCA just finished its second round of the Girls Who Code program, a 10-week program aimed at teaching teen girls about coding, and the participants finished off this session showing the different games and stories they learned how to make in the class.
YWCA Program Director Beth Royer-DeLong explained that the Girls Who Code program was founded by Reshma Saujani, an Indian American who started her career as an attorney and activist. She added that Saujani has a TED Talk, which can be seen on YouTube, that teaches girls “bravery as opposed to perfection.”
The program, which began last March, is open to those in sixth through 12th grades. There are two instructors, Royer-DeLong and Ariel Maloney. The next session will begin in March. The class is free, and the students do not have to be members of the YWCA.
“They just need to bring their own laptop and be really brave, and open to challenges. Part of the YWCA mission is all about empowering women, and this program is a great example of that mission,” Royer-DeLong said. “The goal is to create a computer science project with a topic on a social issue they care about such as the environment or bullying.”
Each class is 10 weeks, meeting for one hour on Mondays.
“We began with a simple Codesters program last winter that allowed our group to create character-driven projects,” Royer-DeLong said. She said that they do not necessarily stress completing a project by the end of those 10 weeks due to it being a short amount of time, but rather they emphasize keeping their interest in technology. “To show they can do it; they can do anything!” Royer-DeLong said.
Every Monday when they meet, they catch up on how school is going, if there’s anything they would like to share with the class, Royer-DeLong said. They follow that with watching a two to five-minute video on women in technology.
“Representation is everything,” Royer-DeLong said. She said that they learned “about Grace Hopper, who came up with the tech term ‘debugging,’ Simone Giertz, a hilarious, amazing, genius YouTuber who creates all these wonderful robotics, and Dr. Ayanna Howard, who works with artificial intelligence, and many other amazing, wonderful women in tech. Women they may not otherwise hear about, which is so frustrating and unfortunate.”
After the videos, they go over material from the Girls Who Code curriculum and spend the majority of the time together working on projects.
Royer-DeLong said that her daughters inspired her to promote technology to other girls.
“For me, it is always my daughters that drives me,” Royer-DeLong said. “We are a tech family. We are geeks. We love everything about computers and technology. We love video games but as an adult I can see it, see that tech interest falter once they hit high school. I don’t want that to happen to these girls. I want them, regardless of where they take their tech interest, to succeed. I don’t want them to give up on a tech dream. We have to close the gap in technology.”
This week, the students presented their projects that they have been creating with Scratch, a free programming language online.
Elaini Grove, an eighth grade student in Piqua, got involved after her grandmother found out about the class. Grove enjoys video games and is interested in pursuing video game development as a career in the future. “I want to start my own company,” she said.
Grove showed the class the different characters in her Scratch animation, which included an interactive story of a love triangle.
“We do a lot of video game and computer stuff,” Emma DeLong, a Piqua High School freshman, said.
Brianne DeLong, a PHS junior and Emma’s sister, said that she enjoys open world adventure games, and Emma said that she enjoys story-based linear games.
Emma’s project was an animated story of a horse loose in a hospital, getting a job as a doctor. Brianne’s project was an educational, interactive story about barn owls.
Willow Candy-Stone, a sixth grade student from Greenville, got involved in Girls Who Code when she and her family searched for coding classes so she could learn more.
“I like how we could make our own projects,” Candy-Stone said. She added that she enjoys the creativity of designing games in the program. “I like how you can make what you want in games.”
Candy-Stone showed the class two different games she created in Scratch, including one in which the user could move a basket back and forth across the screen to catch bananas. The game also included a counter to keep track of how many bananas the user was catching.
Candy-Stone said thatone day, “I eventually got to 500.”
Adelynn Rich, a sixth grade student from Covington, enjoys science and wanted to expand her knowledge of programming, as she previously had no experience in that area of science. “I thought, ‘Why not try coding?’” she said.
Rich’s project involved racing and training horses, including the user moving their horse around to avoid different obstacles.
Kiera Thomas, a Piqua eighth grade student, had fun with the Girls Who Code program after she started learning and gaining skills. “I like making the games,” Thomas said.
Her project involved an interactive Christmas story, with a cat shopping for Christmas presents and talking about the meaning of Christmas.
Haily Tyson, a Piqua eighth grade student, also wanted to get more involved in STEM and said that it was fun creating stories with Scratch.
“I want to thank the Tipp City Library GWC for helping us get started,” Royer-DeLong said. “They answered a lot of questions before we started. Also, a huge thanks to Ariel (Maloney) … as I know her focus is similar to mine – representation and closing the gap of women in technology.”
Royer-DeLong also thanked United Way, which helped purchase a speaker for Girls Who Code. “Also, our group received a grant from Girls Who Code directly for making purchases to help with our program,” she said.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org