This July, The Creative Coast’s Girls Code Savannah program took place in the form of an aviation-themed summer camp designed to teach girls the basics of coding, free of charge. The camp took place at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong Campus in a five-day segment. From July 10th to 14th, 33 fifth to eighth-grade girls within the public school system gathered in a computer lab to learn about the basics of coding and the possibilities that tech-oriented careers can offer them in the future.
The camp was led by Lesli Ott, an applied economist, data scientist, full-stack software developer, and founder of Menther, a Savannah-based startup dedicated to using technology for the empowerment of women. She volunteers with Girls Code in order to help girls realize the opportunities that become available to them by learning technology-based skills. Ott’s team includes Zoe Chow, who helped teach coding lessons at every Girls Code event this year, and 3 other high-schooler teaching assistants who assisted girls with questions and debugging their code: Virginia Samland, Shelia Nguyen, and Carlysue Mayes. This camp offered girls a unique experience not just to hear about girls in tech, but to see for themselves that girls and women are involved at all levels of the technology industry.
At the start of the week, the girls learned how to use MIT’s Scratch, a block-based visual programming language, to code a video game. By manipulating colored “blocks” of code in the program, they chose sprites to represent the player character and enemies and coded a Space Invaders-style game.
Then, they learned how to use CSS and HTML to code a website with text, backgrounds, and imported images. “This camp opened a new world of coding for me,” one girl told us, “before this, I didn’t know what coding was.”
The camp also featured a field trip to the nearby private flight school Fly Corps Aviation, where the girls learned from Diya Patel, a 19-year-old pilot and Georgia Tech student, the many ways that technology has changed the aviation industry in recent years. They took a look at ForeFlight, the real-time flight planning and radar application for iOS devices, and discussed how this technology, and the coding behind it, is empowering safer and more efficient air travel. Then, the girls got to take turns in the cockpits of Fly Corps’s airplanes, touring and asking questions about both the planes and careers in aviation.
After a week of learning and coding, the girls were visited on Friday by their parents and Girls Code’s event partners to show off their websites and games (and eat pizza and cupcakes).
Girls Code will continue to offer coding camps for girls in the fall and winter. As the program grows, Ott hopes it can expand to covering Python and that Zoe Chow and teaching assistants can take on even more responsibility and teaching, setting up the program to take off into its own.
This event was made possible by generous sponsors including Howmet Aerospace, Howmet Women’s Network, Georgia Southern Business Innovation Group (BIG), the City of Savannah, Fly Corps Aviation, and Sam’s Club. We’re grateful for these businesses’ commitment to empowering the next generation of women coders.
If you’re interested in signing your child up for the fall Girls Code sessions or donating to Girls Code Savannah, visit the brand new website at https://girlscodesavannah.org/.