A group of girls from Overbrook Educational Center, a small Philadelphia public school located on 67th and Landsdowne Avenue, just completed a unique one-week coding camp led by a dynamic duo of Baldwin School students and sisters, Jasmine and Sara Syed.
Jessica White, a rising seventh-grader at OEC said, “I think it’s cool because there are not a lot of girls in technology and it will be good to see more women in the field. You can solve a problem using coding and it’s a great hobby to have.”
Jasmine, a recently graduated senior, is headed to Duke University to pursue computer engineering in the fall. Through her experience with her computer science teacher, Dr. Laura Blankenship, combined with her love of the versatility of coding, Jasmine wanted to share this love with others. Through the connection of TechGirlz, a partnership was created.
Sara, a rising sophomore, has developed a love of technology through her own experiences of attending technology camps as a child and worked in tandem with her sister to make the camp come to life. Months prior, the sisters visited OEC, recruited students, created lesson plans, produced a manual, and spent hours of planning time to create this experience.
Alana Robinson, a rising eighth-grader at OEC, said, “I really liked having Jasmine and Sara as our teachers because they know what it feels like to be in our place – to be a girl and to be a student. They helped us and gave us positive feedback throughout the week. I liked everything about the camp and I want them to come back. I did not think it was going to be this fun!”
Free of cost to students at OEC, the one-week camp offered girls an opportunity to code their own game in Scratch.
“This is my first time learning how to code,” said OEC rising sixth-grader Jewel Austin. ” I wanted to make a game before but I didn’t know how. I thought they were just going to teach us about computers but I really like that I could use my imagination. I wish it (the camp) was for two weeks.”
The Syed sisters won a grant through the NCWIT Aspire IT program from the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT) of $2000 to finance the camp. The students learned basic coding concepts, worked in groups to brainstorm solutions to social problems, and created their own games in Scratch.
The camp also had two visiting speakers – Felicite Moorman and Gail Dichter. These two women in technology who work for local businesses, came to camp and presented about their careers.
OEC rising eighth-grader Maya Davis said, “After hearing the guest speakers, they have careers in technology and they told us that it is possible for us to do the same. When the first guest speaker explained how she was able to unlock the doors in hotel rooms all the way in Vegas and turn the heating and air conditioning on simply through her tablet, I thought that was really interesting. Seeing how powerful she was made me feel like I could do the same thing.”