Last Saturday was a record-setting day for TechGirlz, when hundreds of girls met up in person and online for Code Breakers and set two world records: one for the most girls coding at the same time in one location and one for the most girls coding in multiple locations.
“Oak Ridge, 21!” the team from Tennessee cheered over the livestream, projected into about 20 technology spaces across the country.
“Philadelphia, 70!” shouted the girls from Pennsylvania.
“I just heard from Colombia and they have 38 chicas!” said Amy Cliett, national director for TechGirlz, a non-profit dedicated to getting middle school girls interested in tech careers. “We’re doing it!”
In all, 342 middle school girls from Denver and to Durham and all the way to PSL Software labs in Itagu, Colombia, learned about image tags, uploading files and customizing fonts. While they worked together in person and virtually building websites using CSS and HTML, they were also creating two different world records.
“We’re always looking for more ways to get and keep girls excited about technology,” said TechGirlz CEO and founder Tracey Welson-Rossman. “We created the world record, and hope it will quickly be broken.”
More girls are joining programs like TechGirlz because they’re interested in tech, she said. They want to learn new skills with their friends, or see if tech can become a well-paying and empowering career. Events like Code Breakers get girls together for technology projects and show them how much fun it can be to create phone apps, play with binary code and build websites related to things they like.
TechGirlz has reached 15,000 girls through fun, hands-on tech workshops, and is on track to expand its reach to 20,000 girls by 2020. During Code Breakers, each group sounded off from their own location on a shared livestream — a way for them to feel connected and get them excited about working with other girls in tech, both in person and digitally, all around the world.
TechGirlz Sets 2 World Records in 1 Day
As the clock struck noon in New York, the coding began. Girls in grades 5 to 9 from states like Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee logged in to the Make a Website Using HTML/CSS workshop from TechShopz and got busy. Using a premade text editor and web browser, they edited web page templates to develop their own customized websites.
In Chicago, 20 girls filled up a large conference room 23 floors up and overlooking Lake Michigan. Data scientists from Opex Analytics volunteered for the day and helped the girls set up their computers and walk them through the basics of building a website.
“We’re going to take this website to the next level,” said Julia Greenberger, who walked the girls through list tags, headers and changing font colors. Girls from all over the city and even Indiana and Michigan came through to code in downtown Chicago. One family drove more than two hours from Holland, Michigan, to be at the event.
During Code Breakers, the girls learned first about servers, IP addresses and tags. Once they got the hang of font and background customization, they started from scratch to build their own websites.
Like all TechGirlz events, the room was full of young ladies immersed in the work, deep into their projects and talking and asking questions.
“Ultimately, a tech career is a ticket to newly empowered economic and social status for women,” said Welson-Rossman. “Coding is one part of the puzzle but serves as a fun entry point to the big world of technology careers.”
CompTIA’s tech workforce charity Creating IT Futures has been a longtime supporter of TechGirlz and its mission to train more women for the future tech workforce. The nonprofit recently acquired TechGirlz in March. “We are excited TechGirlz set not one but two world records related to girls coding,” said Charles Eaton, executive vice president, social innovation, CompTIA, and CEO, Creating IT Futures. “It’s critical that we collectively work to expand and diversify our future tech workforce.”
Free, open source technology courses can be used by anyone to inspire curiosity, impart confidence and build community as the foundation for the application of technology throughout a girl’s career and life. To try out TechShopz in a Box, including the lesson plan used during Code Breakers, visit TechGirlz.org.
—Michelle Lange is a writer and designer living in Chicago.