CQL and BitCamp Help Change How Girls View Software Programming

Changing How Girls View Software Programming with BitCamp

This past Saturday, CQL had the opportunity to host BitCamp, a day-long coding camp for middle school girls.

A total of 14 volunteers, including speakers and instructors, showed up to help the 19 seventh and eighth grade girls learn about website development. 

CQL welcomed the students and their parents with an overview of what we do here at CQL, an explanation of potential career options in engineering and computing, and why software development is a great career choice for women.Guest speakers Angela Nahikian from Steelcase and our own Monica Reich gave their perspectives on engineering and finding the right fit, and why software development is a wonderful career for women (and moms), respectively. 

During the day, BitCamp instructors taught the girls about building a website using HTML elements and how to style their sites with CSS. Each girl made her very own website about a topic of her interest, including monkeys, cupcakes, and their lives in general. One student even made a site for her brother’s new clothing line!

My Highlights as an Instructor

Overall, this event was an overwhelmingly positive experience for students and volunteers alike and I’m so happy I was able to be part of such an inspiring day. Here are just a few highlights of the day, from my perspective as an instructor:

1. Seeing the Girls Get Excited about Programming

A lot of the girls showed up to BitCamp not knowing anything about programming or with preconceptions that they didn’t like it because it was boring or hard. During the class, many of the girls actually got excited about making their webpages.

Some of them struggled to get their content just right, but when they finally figured it out they’d nearly jump out of their seats with joy! Seeing their perspectives change when they realized that coding can be fun was definitely a highlight of my day. 

2. Being in an Open and Caring Learning Environment

Something magical happened on Saturday. We put 19 girls together in a room to learn, and they melded together very well. They didn’t sit in silence and not talk to each other. Nor did they form cliques where somebody felt excluded. The girls chatted about the topics for their websites and shared ideas.

One girl even figured out (all on her own!) how to embed a YouTube video into her website and started teaching other girls how to do it too. This kind of teamwork and camaraderie during the day was so great to see. 

3. Hearing the Girls Ask to Come Back Again

It was before lunch when girls started talking about how much fun they were having. We heard things like, ‘Why can’t we have a class like this at school?’ Or, ‘I want to do stuff like this every day!’ And ‘Can we come back here again to learn more?’

As a teacher, it thrills me to see the students having fun and enjoying the lessons enough to want to stick with it and even try it again.

The Student Perspective

Stephanie Tolly, the sister of our Brand Journalist, Lauren Longo, hesitantly attended BitCamp after her mom insisted she sign up. Stephanie was not looking forward to the event. In fact, when her sister texted her the day before to ask if she was excited about BitCamp, her answer was, ‘no, not at all.’

Stephanie explained that she’d had a programming class at school which she found very boring. She said that it was ‘little kid programming,’ where they had to drag items around on the screen, instead of writing actual code.

However, Stephanie quickly got excited once she started to make her website. Her favorite part was getting to design her website, create her own layout, and style the contents using CSS. Figuring out the exact right syntax and typing the key words correctly was the most difficult part for Stephanie, but she was able to figure it all out to put together a website outlining her interests of horseback riding, traveling, and Art Prize. When she spoke to her sister again after the event, she’d said it was a lot of fun and would even like to sign up for another class. 

Before attending BitCamp, Stephanie had dreams of becoming a veterinarian, but now she is considering a career as a website designer. 

Kennedy Williams, the daughter of James Williams, a member of our Engagement Team, came to BitCamp hoping to create a website to showcase t-shirts that her brother and his friends are making. That is exactly what she did! She loved creating the design of her website and considered what her brother would like to help her make decisions on content and layout.

Like Stephanie, Kennedy also thought that hardest part was knowing exactly what to type. Kennedy had a tech class at school, but they did not cover computer programming there. She attended BitCamp after being convinced by her dad and is planning a career as a mental health psychologist.

What’s Next?

BitCamp is hosted at several locations throughout Grand Rapids and West Michigan. Details on future events and locations can be found here. There will be a BitCamp 2 curriculum launched in 2016, so keep an eye on the BitCamp website if you know a girl who has already attended once and would like to learn more.

If your company would be interested in hosting BitCamp, you can learn more about being a host here.