November 30, 2015
30 girls from the Weakley and Obion County area gathered at UT Martin’s Paul Meek Library on Saturday for a “100 Girls of Code Academy” workshop. Participation in the course was free and made possible by a collaboration between the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center (NTEC), UTM Information Technology Services, and the UTM College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences.
Girls ranging from age 8 to 17 gathered together to learn the basics of computer science and online coding. The workshop was lead by Tennessee Tech student Samantha Williams, a computer science major and “girl of code” herself.
“This is an opportunity for young girls to explore the world of computer science and understand the importance of the industry and that it can be a lot of fun,” said Dr. Joey Mehlhorn, professor of Agricultural Economics at UTM. “There are tremendous opportunities available in computer science. This camp will hopefully spark interest early in these young women for technological related careers.”
The girls were excited to start the day by learning how to code their own games, and put their knowledge to the test by creating their own personalized online mazes.
The group was delighted with a surprise visit from UTM Chancellor, Dr. Robert Smith. Chancellor Smith gave special attention to the girls, stressing the importance of women in the computer programming field and at UTM.
“My favorite thing that I learned how to do is how to make a star go through a maze,” said homeschooled student Gryphon Rowland, age 9. “If they have another class, I would like to do this again.”
The second half of the day focused on website building and creating code for each girl to personalize her own webpage.
“I really enjoyed creating code for a website and actually being able to build my own,” said Westview student Keondra Shanklin, age 15. “I haven’t really considered computer science as a future career, but after doing this workshop it is definitely something to consider.”
“I thought doing this class would help me better my future,” said Westview student Alyssa Scott., age 16. “my favorite part was being able to build my own maze online. I would definitely like to attend this class again.”
An exciting aspect about the program is that all of the games and websites the girls created during the workshop are accessible to them outside of the course so they can continue to use and work on them from home.
Instructor Samantha Williams expressed her excitement about the possibilities workshops like these open to young girls, not just in the computer science field, but also in life.
“My hope for what the girls took away from this experience is that, believe it or not, they can too. That’s what I want more than anything for them. Not just that they can teach themselves computer programming, but that they can teach themselves anything. That’s something you need in life.”
NTEC and UTM say they hope to partner up again to host another local Girls of Code Academy workshop in the near future. They would like to extend a special thanks to the UTM Paul Meek Library staff and Alan Franklin, UTM director of Information Technology Services for their help in making this event possible.
The Northwest TN Entrepreneur Center is located at 206 White Street in Martin, TN. To contact them or find out more information about their services, call 731-587-4213. This project is funded under an agreement with Launch Tennessee and the State of Tennessee.