South Florida programs seek to unite 'girls who code'
iPrep Academy student Maria Mejia helps to organize inaugural Code Art Miami
With the ever-changing dynamics of technology and gaming, coding is becoming a major industry. Earlier this week, President Barack Obama announced that he would dedicate funding to build more programs that teach coding at schools around the nation.
In Miami-Dade County, some of those programs already exist at schools like iPrep Academy, a public, technology magnet school, and through clubs like Girls Who Code.
"It's a huge deal -- the fact that it's so high in demand and yet we barely have anyone here in the United States to work on this," Maria Mejia told Local 10 News.
Mejia is a senior at iPrep in downtown Miami, where she started a chapter of the Girls Who Code. A couple of years ago, Mejia said, a teacher noticed her outstanding math skills and introduced her to coding. A summer program with the club led her to develop a passion for it. She is now awaiting an acceptance letter to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or to Georgia Tech, where she plans to further her studies in computer coding. Through her experiences over the past couple of years, though, Mejia quickly realized she had few girls in her company. She's made it her mission to change that and to introduce more girls and young women to the world of coding.
"You would be amazed at how little computer graduates we have in the U.S. And, you know, a lot of people, they have to outsource to other places where coding is more of a literacy and not just a skill you learn in college," Mejia said. "Women today represent only 18 percent of all computer-science graduates and just 22 percent of gaming developers."
Coding is referred to as the language of tomorrow. It's the language of computer science, and it's behind the cellphone, the iPad and the computer likely used on a daily basis.
To get more girls involved, Mejia has helped to organize the inaugural Code Art Miami event Feb. 6, hosted at the Miami Animation and Gaming International Complex (MAGIC) at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.
Code Art Miami is a collaborative effort between local Girls Who Code clubs and Miami-based CODeLLA, a nonprofit organization committed to teaching coding and tech skills to Hispanic girls from underserved communities.
"Computer science is a basic skillset of the 20th Century world," Josie Goytisolo, Mejia's mentor, founder and chief executive officer of CODeLLA, said. "We are living at a time of exponential technological change."
Code Art Miami seeks to inspire more girls to code and to foster community among participating student groups. Mejia wants to be the inspiration to girls that her teacher was to her.
"I think it's a stigma," Mauricio Ferrazza, department chair for MAGIC at Miami Dade College, said. "Women feel a little bit intimidated by going into engineering, programming, coding, computer animation, and we're trying to change that. Here at MAGIC, we have a huge effort to invite, to bring and to include women in our program."
Code Art Miami will showcase digital and 3D-printed art created through coding by local girls in grades 4-12. Students were invited to make submissions for display at the event. Art will be displayed digitally on several flat screens throughout MAGIC's state-of-the-industry facility. After a short speaker program designed to both inspire and give direction to students interested in tech, the contest winners will be announced. There will also be a silent auction of various items.
All money raised at the event will fund a scholarship for a local young woman to attend one of Miami Dade College's gaming or animation programs.
The event is free to the public. It begins at 4 p.m. Saturday at MAGIC at Miami Dade College, 315 NE Second Ave., on the first floor. To learn more and reserve tickets, visit www.codeart.miami or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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