Girls On Fire Summer Camp Fans Flame Of Coding For Young Women

By Elizabeth Hernandez Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The "Girls on Fire" summer camp hosted by the University of Colorado is empowering elementary and middle-school girls to explore technology.

Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

As deadline loomed, a room full of young, technology-minded girls wound into a frenzy they compared in intensity to the ending of the reality show "Cupcake Wars."

The elementary and middle-school girls were a part of the Girls on Fire summer camp hosted by the University of Colorado.

Capture the flag and s'mores were notably absent from this camp, but in its place: coding, technology and problem-solving along with goofy lessons like programming a robot wedding that held everyone's attention.

Atzin Barrios, 11, constructed a toy-sized car and then programmed a motor to make it zoom around the floor.

The purple and turquoise car with Harry Potter drawings and a stuffed animal dog passenger zoomed forward and back as Barrios smiled down at her hard work.

"This camp is like playing, but you play with technology," she said.

At home, Barrios said she likes messing around with phones and computers, but she wanted to come to camp to see what else she could learn. The all-girl environment made her feel comfortable to explore.

"The girls made me happy," she said. "And I feel happy because I made something."

The chatter in the ATLAS Institute room the girls were working in was difficult to understand at times, but 12-year-old Annetta Rodier tried to break it down.

"Coding is pretty versatile," Annetta said.

Annetta and her friends made a 3-D-printed spork a few months back, so the science whizz brought the spork to camp to soup it up. She programmed lights and music to emanate from the utensil.

"Camp has given me an opportunity to explore more of my interests," she said.

Computer science professor Ben Shapiro zipped around, tending to young hands shooting up in the air for help. The girls' parents would be at the university any minute to watch demonstrations of the projects, and last-minute touches and disasters were abound.

"Twenty minute warning, kiddos," Shapiro said.

Shrieks followed.

A step counter for dogs needed wrapping up. A hippo night light needed a pink heart glued to its chest.

Shapiro explained he and camp leader Kari Santos of the institute's Information and Communication Technology for Development program co-created the software for the girls to use and then combined that with a mobile app and circuit boards that all communicated together.

"This is an opportunity for girls to learn to express themselves through programming and design and to learn a form of science that's quite contemporary -- wearable technology," Shapiro said.

Lucy Penuel, 10, couldn't quite put her finger on what made her love coding -- she was too busy programming -- but she knew she wanted to learn more.

"There's just something about it," she said. "When you're doing it, you feel like you could do anything."

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