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The Girl Factor: Creative Code and Computer Programming

Programming is not just for boys, and Science Buddies' computer programming resources are carefully developed to engage both boys and girls. In support of Computer Science Education Week, we hope you are inspired by photos from recent code workshops with girlSPARC, check out the CODEGIRL movie, and do an Hour of Code with a student or class.

The Girl Factor: Creative Code and Computer Programming / Participants at a girlSPARC workshop work on Raspberry Pi projects in small groups and with the help of girlSPARC mentors.

Companies and educators around the world are working to change workforce statistics and break down stereotypes about computer programming by inspiring more girls to explore coding and the ways in which programming can be a creative and empowering tool for change—a career path for girls as well as boys. Thanks to support from sponsors like Google RISE, Symantec, and Best Buy, Science Buddies continues to develop engaging new computer programming, electronics, and engineering content, much of it with an emphasis on creativity and the intersection between science, technology, engineering, math, and art (often referred to as STEAM).

girlSPARC Workshops

The Girl Factor: Creative Code and Computer Programming / Participants at a girlSPARC workshop work on Raspberry Pi projects in small groups and with the help of girlSPARC mentors.

More than 50 girls in grades 3-8 recently got an opportunity to explore computer programming and electronics using the Science Buddies Raspberry Pi Projects Kit. Thanks to a partnership grant from Google RISE, Science Buddies and girlSPARC collaborated on a pair of free workshops designed to give girls a chance to get hands-on with Scratch programming and fun real-world creations that respond to user input. In half-day workshops with girlSPARC mentors, participants worked in small groups and used the Raspberry Pi Projects kit to make several creative projects.

Girls attending the "Capturing Creativity with Code" workshops in Mountain View, CA programmed LEDs to light up in response to certain keys on their keyboard, built a fun carnival-style buzzer game, made an invader alert tool to help protect a space or treasured items, and turned ordinary measuring cups into an interactive drum set.

The Girl Factor: Creative Code and Computer Programming / Participants at a girlSPARC workshop work on Raspberry Pi projects in small groups and with the help of girlSPARC mentors.

Hour of Code

Hour of Code / Star Wars, Frozen, and Minecraft tutorials

An Hour of Code project makes introducing students to computer programming easy and fun. This week, December 7-13, teachers and families around the world are encouraged to join in celebration of Computer Science Education Week and give students the chance to try computer programming with an activity that will take about an hour. All it takes is an hour to work a computer coding experience into the school day (or afterschool program or even at home). In an hour, a student's view of coding can be completely transformed.

While Hour of Code aims to inspire as many students as possible to do an activity that helps demystify computer programming, Code.org, the parent organization, has clearly worked hard to make Hour of Code girl friendly. In preparation for this year's Hour of Code week, Code.org launched a new featured Hour of Code tutorial that centers around Star Wars. Familiar characters like Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 make an appearance, as do Rey and BB-8, characters in the forthcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie.

The video accompanying the Star Wars coding activity features Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy talking about the role of computer programming in filmmaking and Rachel Rose, a Senior R&D engineer working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens introducing the activity. Depending on age and experience, students can do a simplified guided programming activity using Code.org's drag-and-drop coding environment or they can do a more advanced version of the tutorial combining the block-oriented programming with JavaScript. According to Code.org, in the tutorial, "participants will join forces with Rey to guide BB-8 through a space mission, then team up with Princess Leia to build their own game featuring R2-D2 or C-3PO."

Putting characters like Princess Leia center stage creates an engaging and welcoming learning environment for both girls and boys. One of the other spotlighted tutorials on the Hour of Code site features Anna and Elsa from the popular Disney film Frozen. According to Code.org, the Frozen tutorial has been completed more than 13 million times since it launched last December. The other highlighted tutorial is Minecraft-themed, reinforcing the fact that hooking learning experiences to popular culture is one way to gain student interest.

With a trio of Star Wars, Frozen, and Minecraft computer programming tutorials, kids may find that computer programming is lots of fun and worthy of more than an hour's attention!

To find out more about the Hour of Code, Code.org, and how you can get involved, visit https://hourofcode.com. (On the Hour of Code site, students, teachers, and families can explore programming tutorials and activities from Code.org and partners.)

CODEGIRL the Movie

The CODEGIRL documentary brings the realities of girl programmers to the big screen as it follows teams of high school girl coders competing in the Technovation Challenge. Ten thousand dollars are up for grabs to bring the winning team's app to the market, but CODEGIRL showcases more than just who wins. Learn more about the teams and how to view the movie on the CODEGIRL website.


Science Buddies and Creative Computer Science and Electronics

The Raspberry Pi Projects Kit is one way to get students coding and contains everything kids need (excepting general craft materials) to do a series of creative projects (including the ones the girls did at the girlSPARC workshop). In addition, Science Buddies has a wide range of other Scratch projects and resources, as well as ideas for exploring video game design, coding, and creative electronics projects. Check some of these projects, activities, articles, and suggestions to help encourage your students to explore programming:

For more creative electronics projects, see the following:

Support for Science Buddies' partnership with girlSPARC was provided by Google RISE.

Development of Science Buddies resources and projects designed to encourage girls to try computer programming and to showcase creative exploration of science, technology, engineering, and math are supported by Symantec and the Best Buy Foundation.

(Photos used in this post were taken at the girlSPARC workshops by photographer Kenny Schick and used with permission.)

Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

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