Aliva Das

December 2, 2019

The Code Busters: The Girls Who Code Outreach Program at Cornell

Print More

Founded in 2013, Women in Computing at Cornell aims to increase the visibility of women in computing fields. The organization empowers and advises women in academic, social and professional settings and helps young girls pursue their passions in computing. One WICC program, the Girls Who Code Outreach Program, aims to solve the gender disparity in the tech industry.

According to Stephanie Shum ’20, vice president of the WICC Outreach program, the GWC club has two classes offered every Sunday for middle school and high school students in the greater Tompkins community. Their lessons are typically taught in JavaScript but also utilize HTML, CSS, Arduinos and GitHub.

“Students usually code using Khan Academy for small classroom exercises but have the freedom to pick any of the technologies we have available to use for a project,” Shum said.

These classes take 10 to 20 students per semester. At the end of the course, students complete a final project using the knowledge and skills they acquired in class. Students pursued projects ranging from creating a color generator using JavaScript to building an escape-room game.

In addition to the GWC classes, WICC Outreach also organizes local workshops in the Tompkins community with groups like Saturday Science and Math Academy, Code Red Open House, Splash!, Girl Scouts, Lansing Public Library, Lansing High School’s STEAM Day and the Cornell Employee Celebration.

“I was heavily involved in STEM outreach programs for elementary school girls [when I was in high school] and I wanted to continue doing that in college,” said Sophia Wang ’23, a GWC volunteer.

This semester, Wang and her fellow volunteers Jenny Wen ’22, Rachel Liu ’22 and Jessie Lee ’23 worked on a project geared towards helping kids understand basic programming and hardware skills in an interactive and engaging manner.

The team of volunteers used a Makey Makey, in which users can connect everyday objects like paper cutouts, play-doh and even bananas to the circuit board using the alligator clips. The circuit board is then connected to a computer using the USB cable. This creates a closed electrical loop so digital signals can travel between the everyday objects and the electrical equipment.

Girls Who Code has ambitious plans for future semesters. One of them is an in-class project fest for Cornell students to demo and explain projects they have worked on. This would help high school and middle school students learn about different ways to apply computer science in a real-world context.

“We are [very] excited to [conduct] more local workshops as well as come up with new ways for our Girls Who Code students to engage with CS,” Shum said.