Who Runs the Code? Girls! - Angela Huynh

According to the Pew Research Center, women constitute only 14 percent of the total workforce in engineering and 25 percent of all computer occupations. It’s no lie women have been highly underrepresented in the tech industry, with many undergraduate students reporting fewer and fewer women in advanced computer science classes. However, there’s a revolutionary program seeking to change this grim prospect by empowering the world’s future change-makers and software engineers. Kode with Klossy is an intensive two-week summer program aimed to provide young girls and women, ages 13-18, a foundational experience in coding.

I was honored enough to be one of the several scholars invited to this innovative program. As a part of the mobile development camp, campers dived quickly into the world of coding, more specifically the Swift programming language, with which I built four apps! Of all former Kode with Klossy scholars, only 20 percent have reported having prior coding experience, so no matter one’s background or exposure to coding, the KwK curriculum serves to engage and acclimate everyone.

Every afternoon, scholars were assigned optional “homework” in order to solidify what was taught earlier that day. During the first day of camp, I was having trouble understanding the syntax of conditional statements. Consequently, that afternoon, for approximately two hours, I found myself laboring over my laptop, determined to complete all the work. And I eventually did! The feeling of exhilaration washing over me when I completed proved unmatched.

Computer science is undoubtedly an intimidating discipline: it requires one to be meticulous and exact; a single needless bracket is all it takes for a build error. But in spite of this daunting prospect, Kode with Klossy underscores a community of ambitious and intelligent young women who are not afraid to struggle. Together with my new friends, we visited office hours frequently and even assisted each other during Zoom break out sessions. Even across computer screens, I found a welcoming community that wanted to use the power of coding for good, whether to create a consolidation of resources for the black lives matter movement or an app educating high schoolers on the college application process! The first week was riddled with lessons on conceptualizing code, coding app components, and lessons on design; this was accompanied by mini-projects to improve our understanding. The next week was less instruction-dependent as we were all brainstorming and developing our final projects. These mobile applications would display all of the app features we had spent the first week learning to code, and soon, we’d be teaching ourselves how to implement special features not included in the program’s curriculum. From brainstorming to creating a prototype to actually coding our app, the process was highly innovative and fostered an encouraging environment among me and my fellow scholars. Although we spent a significant chunk of time with just our team partners, we also communicated through Slack or jumped into each others’ breakout rooms for assistance in coding other elements. Through this collaboration, within and outside of the teams, we were able to bring our app ideas into fruition and bond with each other.

For our final project, my partner and I decided to build a to-do list app with “a plant twist”. It would encourage productivity by having animations of a cactus growing as the user gradually completes more tasks! We were ambitious, a little lost, but nonetheless determined. Yet, this feat would include several visits during office hours, long conversations over Zoom on just how to execute our plan, and meticulously refining our code and user interface. At last, on the last day— Demo Day— when all scholars would present their app, my team finally finished our app! We felt a jumble of emotions: relief, excitement, and apprehension, but none was as prominent as pride.

Before the event, scholars were able to see each other’s apps, discuss what we liked, and inquire about how it was built. During our demos, families and friends were invited to watch every scholar’s presentation.

At the end of the two weeks, I had achieved something I thought I’d never get to do in my lifetime: build an app! I came in with no prior coding experience and each day was a challenge to my persistence, but having a cohort of inspiring, strong girls and women provided me confidence in completing all of the mini-projects and assignments. Kode with Klossy creates an all-female community of coders— a community we unfortunately, don’t see very often.

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