September 19, 2014

Coding Club

From the purple backpacks to their sparkly headbands this looks like a typical gathering of young girls on the web.

But what they are doing on their touch screen computers is more complex than changing a Facebook status.

“They are creating Project Spark worlds. They are building the environment that their characters will inhabit and those worlds can have mountains and valleys and rivers. You can change characteristics of day and night and once they build this beautiful visual world, they will populate it with characters and things,” said Patty Hicks, a Computer Teacher at Gregory Middle School.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday after school, the girls gather at the library for the Girls Coding Club.

Through Project Spark, a program provided for free by Microsoft they use coding to create their own worlds, and in turn learn more about computer science.

“I love how we’re designing games, I love designing all of the characters and everything. I am a head of everyone and so I am doing things a lot faster so I really enjoy exploring it on my own.”

In 1984 the number of women in technological fields of study was 37%, today that number is only 12%.

Hicks, a former computer programmer herself, is hoping to get that stat back up through the girls only club model, encouraging the pre teens to explore a future in computer science.

“It will help them realize that they have the logic and problem solving skills and they can do very well and that they will realize there is a seat for them at the table and they can have this as a career,” she said.

Her approach seems to be working.

“I had never thought of computer science as a job but now I am really kind of thinking about it,” said Katya Brovkich, a student at Gregory Middle School.

“I like the idea of computer science, maybe not in this particular way like game design I want to do more social media designer, but yeah it sounds like an interesting career,” said Rebecca Gray, a student at Gregory Middle School.

The after school girls club filled up in less than a day. Hicks is adding two additional sessions before opening it up to boys as well.


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