It was a Saturday morning TechGirlz workshop— similar to the one Angel recently led for a group of middle school students— that changed her mind about technology and coding. Angel, then age 12, loved to draw and make animations using MovieMaker but never thought computer programming was something she would pursue.
“At first my perception of coding was sitting in front of the computer in dark room typing different numbers over and over and over again. That was the image I had of computer programming so I never considered it as something I would ever want to do,” said Angel, now a high school junior.
Then her mother signed her up for a TechGirlz workshop to learn Scratch, a programming language for creating interactive stories, games, and animations.
“My mom is definitely an inspiration and driving force for me to try new things that get me out of my comfort zone,” Angel said, adding that the Scratch workshop inspired her to take other tech classes and learn how to code on her own so she could customize her drawing webpage.
“I realized it was less about just typing out binary code and actually a tool to create. I am an artist and I love to create things so seeing coding as something that helps me do that really changed my perception on it,” she said.
Now, four years later, Angel is a TechGirlz workshop instructor that has led two workshops on her own this year. First, she taught a group of 12 and 13-year-old girls how to use Blockly and most recently, she created a 63-slide presentation deck for an ‘Intro to HTML/ CSS’ workshop she led at Willingboro Public Library.
“I ended up only using a third of [the slides]. That was definitely a challenge but I was still able to recover and have them build something really special,” Angel said.
Angel explained that her workshop was “less about just putting elements on a webpage” and more about allowing the girls to create their own vision. She wanted to show the girls that they could build something that was not only functional but also beautiful in only a few hours.
“Some girls were more interested than others,” Angel said. “I wanted them to walk away thinking, ‘Wow, this looks great. And I want to learn more of this.’ I wanted them to have that shock factor, that realization that they can create something that looks professional. Some girls walked away really happy with what they made and thought it was really cool.”
Angel said the hardest part of the workshop was distilling all of her knowledge into a short, interactive presentation and being confident in her ability to teach the material. “I didn’t think I could do it at first… because I was teaching myself over and over again and still struggling to get proficient in it,” she said. “But my mom told me I could do it. So I had to try and test my limits.”
Just like before, Angel’s confidence grew after teaching her first workshop. She discovered she really enjoys sharing her knowledge with people who may not have opportunities to learn these topics.
“I realized this is something I see myself doing; giving people these skills is definitely something that is rewarding,” she said. “I would like to bring these programs to places where they don’t have access to this stuff.”
In the same way her mom and past TechGirlz mentors Tracey Welson-Rossman and Becca Refford have inspired her to pursue a career in technology, Angel wants to be a source of inspiration for other young women, particularly women of color who are often underrepresented in the tech industry.
“I would like to program a game at some point with my skills,” Angel said. “Video games are becoming an art form that can impact people and make them think in a similar way as writing a book can. Not all video games, but a lot of them, are an avenue for artistic expression. So I would like to use that to get more positive images out there about women.”
The most powerful lesson she’s learned and wants to share about technology is that “it’s a tool to create” and finding different ways to create can keep everyone inspired, motivated and vibrant.