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STEM girls breaking coding barriers

March 01
01:13 2016
Manasi Maheshwari launching STEM girls coding program

Manasi Maheshwari launching STEM girls coding program

FREMONT, CA: A dozen twelve-year olds crowd into a room and pull out a laptop from a cart the school provides, sitting down on their seats, ready to learn. I look over the room and feel an inescapable sense of accomplishment and hope, as these young girls have the opportunity to develop into wonderful young women-who also happen to be computer scientists.

It all began this past summer when I had the incredible opportunity to attend the selective Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Intel with 19 other young women. There, I spent 7 weeks learning how to code in various languages like Python, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and more while making amazing friends and learning about the importance of bringing new voices – female voices – into the technology sector.

The teachers presented shocking statistics about the dearth of women in computer science fields, with only 0.4% of High School Computer Science students and 17% of AP Computer Science test takers being girls. Rather than being discouraged by these disappointing numbers, I became inspired to make a change and do my part in rectifying this prevailing disparity between the sexes.

As one of two Alumni Ambassadors for my Girls Who Code class, I was encouraged to spread what I learned to my community and I followed that advice. As head and instructor of my high school’s Girls Who Code program, I teach almost 20 students various kinds of computer programming, depending on their level of experience. Some use drag-and-drop syntax to complete assignments in Python, while other more experienced members create projects from scratch using JavaScript.

Even more than teaching coding, my overarching motive in leading this club is to show girls that a career in computers is something achievable (not to mention, extremely interesting!) for anyone, regardless of their gender.

Soon after the program at my high school began, I realized that there was still so much I could do to help my community, and a new idea was incepted. After contacting my sixth-grade teacher Ms. Schlobohm, elementary school principal, and Girls Who Code administration, my next initiative was set-in partnership with Girls Who Code and the school, I created a new program called STEM Girls.

At the launch of this program on February 22, over a dozen sixth-grade girls joined us for the first meeting alone, and the numbers just keep growing. In collaboration with a volunteer instructor, I strive to inspire these young girls to dream big and never be discouraged from pursuing their interests due to external factors.

My experience, first as a student and then applying my newfound knowledge as a teacher, has taught me a lot about leadership and the importance of taking risks. I no longer have qualms with speaking in front of crowds, whether they consist of peers or parents, and I really enjoy sharing everything I’ve learned with so many new people. I’m grateful for the chance to make a difference and am excited for the future expansion of these initiatives to reach even more students across Fremont.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Girls is a coding program that imparts programming skills to young middle school girls and encourages them to explore computer science as a career choice.

Manasi Maheshwari is an American High School, Fremont, California student and is the program founder at Ardenwood School and aims to start many more such chapters in 2016.

Manasi Maheshwari

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