With a few tweaks and adjustments a small robot with red eyes, twirls and moves through a series of commands. At the helm of this little mechanical being is a group of seventh grade girls with a shared enthusiasm for coding.
Episcopal’s newly established Girls Who Code Club meets every other Monday in G1 during flex. Club members Cameron Augustine, Savanna Baker, Ella Barker, Mason Bruns, Nola Frazier, Kylie Kojis, Lauren McGrath and Rebekah Reid have become friends because of their shared interest. They are supportive of each other as they work collaboratively to determine why the robot is not performing the task as assigned. Even as they go through the process of trial and error, they do not become frustrated or short with their teammates. The girls are intelligent and not intimidated by the advanced coding language or the math skills required to determine a solution. In fact, when a problem arises, they simply grab a large protractor and begin working out the details.
Girls Who Code is a national organization on a mission to close the gender gap that exists in the world of technology. The organization’s website features statistics showing that fewer than 1 in 5 computer science grads are women and if current projections hold true within ten years only 22% of computer scientists will be women. Girls Who Code is working to change these stats. There are student groups in all 50 states and the organization has served 90,000 girls since being established.
“I like building,” says Cameron Augustine. “I enjoy programming,” says Ella Barker.
While there is much discussion on whether girls benefit from a learning environment without boys, this is not a concern for the Episcopal Girls Who Code members. The girls simply love coding and say they would do it whether or not the club was gender-specific. Girls Who Code Advisor Betsy Minton says she resisted creating an all girls club for several years since many of the girls said they would come either way; however, since the advent of this new club there has been a monumental increase in the number and variety of girls that attend both all girls and mixed-gender club events. Regardless of the setting, Girls Who Code members simply enjoy the experience. “It’s just fun,” says Kylie Kojis with enthusiasm. When the tiny robot obeys commands and follows tasks, the fun becomes apparent. There are big smiles among the girls and even a few dance moves. “I’m so proud,” says Cameron after troubleshooting a missed turn.
Opportunities for young girls to develop their coding capabilities are numerous. Several members of the Girls Who Code Club recently participated in the IT Girls event at Baton Rouge Community College. The citywide event provided students the opportunity to learn more about technology and meet other girls with similar interests. The girls are also very involved in the Middle School Robotics team, which is gearing up for the Regional Autonomous Robotics Circuit competition on April 6th. Many of these students also find opportunities for coding and robotics outside of school and even during the summer months.
Girls Who Code provides Middle School students a valuable opportunity to learn new skills while developing greater self-confidence and a network of supportive friends. It’s another great example of the variety of opportunities available for students to explore their individual interests. After a recent club huddle, Cameron and Kylie left to attend practice for the upcoming play. At Episcopal, balancing a variety of activities and interests is a hallmark of a well-rounded education.