Learning to code helps us make sense of the rapidly changing world around us. – this is the motto of Code Week, a grass-roots movement that aims to make programming more visible and bring coding and digital literacy to everybody in a fun and engaging way, supported by the European Commission. In 2019, the “week” took place between 5-20 October, and 2,7 million people took part in different activities organized under Code Week’s umbrella, including RighsTech Women and our partners.

In 2019, we contributed to the growing Code Week’s movement by training 119 girls between the ages of 6 and 17 to take part in the event Programming, robotics and rights for girls at HEPIA in Geneva, Switzerland. Together with our partners: CERN Micro Club, CERN Women in Technology, and Informasciences, and with the support of HEPIA, the EU Delegation to the UN in Geneva and dbi services, we prepared a full day of 4 workshops for the girls:

  • Introduction to Computing, mentored by Women in Tech at CERN, has familiarized 6-9-year-old girls with the most fundamental concepts of programming, without even using computers.
  • The Right to Education, mentored by RightsTech Women, which is an easy, interactive introduction to human rights (more specifically the right to education, equality and science), featuring some outstanding and inspiring women in science and technology.
  • Poppy Ergo Jr., mentored by CERN MicroClub and RightsTech Women, which is an introduction to robotics with the help of Poppy, a robotic arm, consisting of 6 motors allowing life-like movements and 3D printed elements.
  • hepiaLight, mentored by HEPIA and Informasciences, which is a programmable electronic card for introducing everyone to embedded systems programming in a playful way.

Hosted by Hepia, the event kicked off with welcoming words from Ambassador Walter Stevens, Head of the EU Delegation, who emphasized the importance of initiatives such as this one, as well as the EU’s strong and continuing support for them, given the importance of growing jobs in this area and lack of gender parity in STEM. He encouraged girls to pursue STEM learning paths. The girls then participated in different workshops throughout the day, with some programming enthusiasts in the age 10-17 group even staying all day to learn to program hepiaLight in the morning and robotics programming in the afternoon (or vice versa).

During the day, the girls enjoyed applying their creativity and logic skills to attack a number of different tasks, ranging from making a robot move a certain way, applying logic rules to advance game pieces, and making a programmable card light up in different ways using the programming language, Python. The event was coached by a large team of volunteer coaches, recruited by the partner organizations. RightsTech Women and partners worked together to make sure there were plenty of female coaches providing technical instruction, so that the girls could meet and work with female role models during the day. A new element for RTW this time is that this event benefited from one girl robotics coach, who had participated in previous RTW and partner events. RTW and partners also warmly welcomed the help of male coaches who share the mission of getting more girls into STEM, something which will take the help and cooperation of all to achieve (and not just women). This great and enthusiastic team contributed to a successful and fun day with their time and commitment. (Thank you!)

Not only the coaches contributed to the fun and learning but the girls themselves created a lot of fun activities for themselves during the day, with some participants providing feedback afterwards to say that they want to go into robotics, programming, engineering or astrophysics. The event brought a lot of fun and learning for the girls and the coaches alike, and was a memorable way to celebrate and promote EU Code Week 2019 in Switzerland.

Do you share our mission to get more women into STEM education and jobs?

RightsTech Women advances the human rights of women and girls in STEM education and employment. If you as an individual or organization share our mission and want to help us get more women into STEM jobs in future, you can donate here: https://rightstech.org/donate/. For more information about becoming a Friend of RTW, contact info@rightstech.org.

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