Parents learn the basics from Girls Who Code

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SVSU’s Girls Who Code club hosted a WeCode event for parents of middle school girls interested in coding on Saturday, Nov. 17, in Science East 145 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Poonam Dharam, a computer science professor, began a chapter of Girls Who Code so SVSU students could help teach local middle schools girls how to code. Parents were invited to attend WeCode, an event aimed to help parents learn the basics of coding and to spark interest in teaching their children how to code.

“(WeCode) was just one of (Dharam’s) ideas to explain to parents what we are teaching kids and what we have found that has been effective,” said Anna Warrick, a computer science senior and Girls Who Code volunteer.

Jarin Musarrat, a computer science sophomore, and Hawra Alzurayqi, a health science senior with a computer science minor, wanted to join Girls Who Code and volunteer for WeCode to help young girls learn about STEM.

“Not many girls are involved in computer science or the STEM area, so we thought it would help them understand what goes on in (coding), and that it would give them a good overview of what goes in with code so they can understand what they may want to do in the future,” Musarret said. “(Dharam) thought it would be really good to start one club in SVSU so that maybe we could get more students involved later on. As girls, we wanted to get involved with it. It was a really good campaign.”

Dharam and Girls Who Code members saw WeCode as a natural extension of their organization.

“Initially, we were doing (coding) with the kids, but now we are doing it with the parents so that they can let help their children get involved in coding and learn more about Scratch and other coding programs,” Musarrat said.

In the morning, Girls Who Code volunteers and Dharam helped parents navigate a program called Scratch to make an animated card to give to their children.

“We designed the card to go through various concepts in Scratch, such as loops and conditions and other coding concepts that are helpful,” Warrick said.

After a brief lunch, parents and volunteers came back to learn about other programs, such as Spheros, Raspberry Pi and Makey-Makey. Warrick believes these programs are “useful and make good Christmas gifts.”

Alzurayqi explained that Spheros is a circular robot that children can code using smartphones or tablet. Makey-Makey is an invention kit that lets children use everyday objects as replacements for keyboards and mice.

The other program Girls Who Code volunteers taught was Raspberry Pi.

“(Raspberry Pi) were originally designed to bring computing to third-world countries,” Warrick said. “It’s basically a whole computer the size of a credit card. The board itself is about $35. It runs its own operating system so you can play video games on it, write a paper, do whatever as long as you have a monitor.”

Masarrat saw the event as a useful first step for parents to become acquainted with coding. “Many parents have no idea about coding, and it takes a long time,” she said. “So, one day is not enough. We are just giving them an idea of what they can do, and later on they can explore more.”

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