Online App Teaches Girls Computer Coding

May 05,2016

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA— Women face obstacles in the male-dominated field of computer technology, but new initiatives are teaching girls to write computer programs. One online application, from a startup called Vidcode, is bridging the gap between young girls and technology.

In New York one-hundred-fifty girls and boys are given a practical challenge: to use computer coding on the Vidcode website to make a video that helps abandoned animals in shelters.

"You get to use a lot of coding blocks to program stuff. It is really cool," said student Natalie Leow, as she and her partner worked at their laptop.

On the other side of the country and West Coast office of Vidcode, co-founder Allie Diracles, demonstrated the process, which teaches computer programming as users make videos to post on sites like Facebook or Instagram.

The girls so like graphics and images.

"And then on our software, they will use programs and scripts and write their own computer programs to modify that content," she said.

The background code that enables each step of the process appears on the screen.

Range of skills

This New York hackathon contestants learned they are winners for their short video to help abandoned animals .

"You really need a lot of intelligence and math," said winner Nayely Torres, "because sometimes, to make an animal move, you have to think about the angle you want it to go to and how many steps you want it to move."

The web-based program teaches computer coding step by step, and these girls — like boys— thrive in this competitive atmosphere.

"We don't see girls intimidated," Miller said, Senior Director of Computer Science Academics at the New York City Department of Education. "We see them taking the lead in groups and project managing."

Future inspiration

And they dream about using their skills  

"I would create a video game one day, or a TV show," said Zara Tarafgar, who said she is following in her father's footsteps by writing computer code.

As they break down stereotypes, according to Raquel Cardona, director of the Software Engineering Programs for New York's public middle schools and high schools.

"When you think 'coder,' you think male," Cardona said. "You think nerdy, you don't think creative, at least traditionally. I think we're starting to change that."

They are learning technology as they promote work cause, says student Sierra Scott, one of the day's winners.

"I think that we did great because we put a lot of effort into it and we said helpful things to make awareness to help dogs and all animals around the country," she said.

And they mastered important computer skills in the process.