Judy Johnson, TechGirlz Volunteer and software engineer at Onyx Point, shares her experience being an instructor for the organization. She talks about Onyx Point hosting their first TechGirlz workshop and the excitement seeing the girls tap into their analytical thinking and creativity, without even realizing it! The full article was originally published March 14, 2019 on Onyx Point’s community blog.
Early in February, one of our co-workers gave us an opportunity to work with a group of young women in middle school interested in STEM. A few of us got together with the young women, and with the guidance of one of our own homegrown middle-schoolers, we selected a resource and a project to do. The middle-schoolers even went as far as to help us think up some hashtags for the event (#girlsdotech #girlsrule #supergirltech). After Onyx Point, Inc. agreed to supply us a room and some snacks, we advertised, planned some more, and rehearsed until the event happened. It was a huge success!
The program we selected was sponsored by TechGirlz. The TechGirlz mission is to inspire middle school girls to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers. A co-worker was able to wrangle up enough laptops for the girls, and before we knew it, it was time to teach!
We taught “Designing a Game with GameMaker” using an existing Youtube tutorial. From this video, the middle-schoolers learned to create an “asteroids” type of game. They designed rocket ships and space rocks and made them move and interact. As a pre-made project, the lessons were pretty straightforward but we touched on many programming principles during this session. The cool thing was that the girls may have not even noticed how much they were learning!
Not only did these young women learn software development skills, but they worked in teams, making new friends, helping each other out, testing, and learning how to cope with unexpected results and difficult problems. These are great beginning skills for working in a cooperative development environment!
At the end of the day, I was extremely proud of our group, and hope to get to do more of these projects with them. In fact, we have one scheduled for March 30! Many thanks are due to the OP employees and friends who helped make this happen! I am hoping that this experience, even if it did not make the students all want to be programmers, gave them confidence in their listening, problem-solving, and cooperative skills. Hopefully at least a couple of them will end up at Onyx Point, Inc. in a decade or so!