Technology professions are often dominated by men, but a club in Chippewa Falls is giving young girls the opportunity to have their voices heard in the field.
“Girls Who Code” is a club offered to middle school aged students at Chippewa Falls Middle School with the goal of giving the students experience in coding, making websites and gaining general knowledge on how to successfully manipulate technology and turn their love for technology into a career.
Thursday afternoon, club members gave a demonstration of some of the projects they’ve been working on, including their circuit boards (circuit playgrounds), which were donated by the American Association of University Women-Chippewa Falls Branch (AAUW).
A circuit playground is a group of microcontroller boards with LEDS, buttons and sensors built into it. This piece of technology allows students to begin physical computing without some of the prior traditional barriers surrounding technology stopping them from initially getting their feet wet in coding.
AAUW-Chippewa Falls Branch Publicity Chair Connie Russell said the organization decided to donate to Girls Who Code because they are doing their part in empowering and encouraging young women to enter a job field which has often been closed to women.
“Our mission is to help young girls do more with science, technology and math,” Russell said. “Those are areas that girls haven’t been as strong in. It’s difficult for them to come up with the money for the things they need for programs like this, so it was something that really fit in with our mission so we decided to furnish them for the girls this year.”
Director for the Cardinal Community Learning Center Andrea Smith said this is a unique opportunity for girls at this age, as technology clubs are a recent development in the public school system.
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“This has given the girls the opportunity to explore technology,” Smith said. “This allows them to decide if they want to have a future in technology or not. To be able to learn how to create websites and be able to communicate with each other is beneficial for them.”
The club started out with 24 members in October and has since been refined down to around 10 members who have become passionate about the work they do. “Girls Who Code” meets once per week and works on entry level coding projects with a final impact project being the ultimate goal.
The club worked on two impact projects this year, one project on LGBTQ empowerment and the other an initiative to get people off the couch and be active. Both projects included building a website, creating animations and making the project aesthetically pleasing.
Plans for the club include opening up a similar opportunity to third- through fifth-graders, employing a simpler curriculum. “Girls Who Code” also want to expand in the fall to get as many young female students involved as possible.
Smith said the club is a great opportunity to learn about technology, but it is much more than that.
“We’ve already applied for them to be able to continue next year through the national organization,” Smith said. “Most of the girls plan to come back and events like this show that their voices are being heard. It gives them empowerment it is a great opportunity for them to gain confidence and form friendships. It’s more than just coding.”