After receiving a grant, first year computer science major Kylie Moden started Trinity Encouraging Computing for Her (TECH). The Trinitonian recently talked with Moden about this initiative.

 

Q: How did the idea for TECH camps begin?

A: I programmed for three years in high school, and I’m a computer science major here. One thing that I’ve noticed is that there are not a whole lot of girls with me in classes. It’s ridiculous how few of us there are. People aren’t studying computer science, but there are so many jobs there. It just makes sense to target girls.

I’ve done app design and app development personally in the past, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I thought girls who were in middle school and really involved with their cell phones would be able to connect with creating an app, so that’s how I decided that we would do an app inventor curriculum.

Q: You always planned on targeting females, but how did you decide that you wanted to work with middle school girls in particular?

A: The age was actually determined by the grant I received from the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT). There are usually opportunities to take computer science classes in high school, but in middle school sometimes those opportunities aren’t there, which easily turns kids off from computer science early on.

By introducing the field to the girls earlier, we hope to let them see how cool technology is. Then they can start doing it in high school, and hopefully they end up studying it in college.

We encouraged girls with little or no experience to come. I emailed all the principals in the San Antonio school districts individually, and about a third of those got back to me with an interest in the idea. About four of those schools actually had me come there and talk.

Q: What did a day at the camp look like?

A: To start, we had a group activity of some sort. The first two days, we had engineering challenges. One of the challenges required the girls to build the tallest tower possible using spaghetti noodles and a limited amount of tape. Then, they had to balance a marshmallow on top without it falling. I think only three groups made a tower that could hold the marshmallow. It’s a pretty tough challenge, but the girls loved it because it’s such a fun activity.

The girls then formed groups and created apps based on a social cause. For example, one group chose dyslexia. They wanted to make people more aware about what it’s like to be dyslexic, so their whole app design is a game where the words are all jumbled and backwards, and the objective is to put the words in order.

The camp isn’t just about them learning how to code. They’re also learning the process of app development and what it’s like to think of any concept that they want and then create it.

Q: What was one of the most rewarding moments for you?

A: We created three separate apps during the camp, and one was a ball bounce. The girls were basically supposed to program a single ball object to bounce around a screen, and one girl asked if she could make hers rainbow colors–and then she did it! Then she asked ‘what if I had five balls?’ and then she did it! She just picked it up so fast; it was so impressive and really adorable.

It was also so rewarding to see the parents’ reactions to the girls’ presentations at the end of the camp. When we pulled up the code for one of the apps a group created, the parents just gasped. They were so impressed about the amount of code that their daughters had written, and it was so rewarding to see them react so positively.

What they’re coding isn’t the impressive part, but the amount of work that went into it really showed. Having such a great response from the parents was really cool. We’re definitely doing TECH camp again next year.