I had many wonderful teachers, mentors and role models as a kid. My mom and dad fostered a love for science and learning. In school and in college I was lucky to have several teachers in math and science that encouraged me and that I looked up to. I’ve been very fortunate to always find a community where I felt like I was valued and challenged and accepted while I pursued my geeky interests, education, and finally my career.
Working with Techgirlz has been a very rewarding experience because it’s like making that space for a whole new generation of girls. I first worked with TechGirlz back in 2011 when I co-taught a class on Scratch. There I met a family of several girls that I was fortunate to keep in touch with as they competed in a national robotics competition. Most recently I taught a TechGirlz workshop on Scratch and electronics with the Raspberry Pi. Through TechGirlz I have strengthened my connection with the Philly tech community and the many women in tech here.
Although I have a long history in math and science (my bachelors degree is in Music/Physics) I actually got into programming quite late—besides a little tinkering as a kid I didn’t write any serious code until grad school in 2006. Today there are so many resources to give kids a quick start with programming and I think everyone should be learning it. I enjoying teaching Scratch as a first programming language because you don’t get all tripped up on syntax and compilers when you are just starting out. It’s like building with blocks and you can easily make animations and fun games, but at the same time you can explore fundamental programming concepts like variables and loops and conditionals and how they can be combined to build complex (and fun) programs.
Putting Scratch on the Raspberry Pi was even more fun because then the girls could connect electric circuits to the Pi and use their code to send signals back and forth from the code to physical objects, like lights and speakers and even robots. Programming feels like magic in moments like that—when you can push a button and make wonderful things happen. It was really cool to be there when these girls were wiring up their first circuits and writing some of their first code. TechGirlz took that class plan and made it one of their reusable TechShopz and already someone else is teaching the same class again here in Philly. That feels really good because I was able to help someone else get started inspiring and encouraging even more girls. Let’s keep it going!
So, what’s next? I’ll be speaking about teaching kids to code at GORUCO in NYC with a big shout out to TechGirlz and their “TechShopz In A Box” in June 2014. My next TechGirlz class will be using Scratch to build Android apps so that the girls can build and install apps right on their phones.
Special thanks to Audrey Troutt for writing this blog post.