New club at ORR teaches coding, encourages gender equality

Oct 2, 2017

It’s Bulldog Block. A group of students in all grades sit at tables in the library, sharing ideas. Their brainstorming session is interrupted by one student exclaiming, “It’s ready!”

Most of the group, alongside high school librarian Allison Barker, get up and hurry to the library's 3D printer.

The students are part of Girls Who Code, a new club run by Barker that meets twice a week during Bulldog Block. The block, new this year, is a 32-minute period each day that gives students the chance to seek out teachers for extra help or go to club meetings.

Barker had been toying with the idea of creating a Girls Who Code club at the high school for more than year, but knew that not all students would be able to stay after school for club meetings. Now, with the addition of the Bulldog Block, any student with interest can attend.

The moniker is a bit of misnomer, Barker explained, as the club isn’t only for girls.

“It was really started to create a more equal gender level in STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] classes,” Barker said. “It’s open to all gender identities, and we’ve had a really good turnout.”

Barker said she would have loved to have taken shop in high school but was intimidated by the all male class.  She  took home economics instead. She hopes to eliminate that sense of intimidation for girls when it comes to male-dominated computer science fields.

In class, the students are learning to use different types of coding software and will spend the semester working toward building a project.

“That’s how you learn coding in the Girls Who Code curriculum,” Barker said.

Barker asked students what they wanted to build, and the group went from there. Among the proposed ideas were a rating system for school lunches, a sensor that compliments everyone who walks through the library door and a moving recycling bin meant to encourage students to be more green.

“Bulldog Block ends on November 3, so we’ll have one of those projects finished by then,” Barker said. “That’s the hope.”

The group will have everything it needs to code their project, whether it is a moving recycling bin or a compliment-granting sensor. Barker was able to procure one grant and has applied for a second grant as well.

“With the grant money we can purchase all the sensors and equipment we need,” Barker said. “We’ll install probably install the finished project temporarily.”

Barker’s hope is that the club will get students interested in coding. With technology embedded in almost every company around the world, a basic understanding of coding that technology may be a way to give today's students a future employment boost.

See below for an example of the coding students are learning. Junior Michaela Mittson created this example in less than 15 minutes.