Mountain View High School juniors Cathy Zhang and Samritha Nagesh are bringing computer science to local elementary schools with CodeChic.
The weekly afterschool program teaches young girls in Mountain View to code using programming languages such as Scratch and Python.
CodeChic’s goal is to enable students of all skill levels to advance their knowledge of computer science, according to Zhang and Nagesh. They added that kids with little to no experience can take Creative Computing with Scratch, a drag-and-drop language suitable for beginners. More advanced students might prefer Exploring Principles in Python, which requires familiarity with the language because students must manually type in the code.
Each one-hour class consists of a lecture followed by an activity. Zhang and Nagesh said they wrote their own curriculum based on core programming concepts such as variables, loops and conditionals.
The two launched the program a year and a half ago in an effort to expose young girls to coding and to encourage them to consider pursuing careers in computer science and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Nagesh, who has been coding for more than three years, said she is pleased with the program’s progress. Their first class in fall 2015 included 15 students at Landels Elementary School; since then, CodeChic has served more than 100 students in total and averages approximately 12 students per class.
“At the beginning of class, some of them don’t know how to type properly, or they’re just learning English,” Nagesh said. “But by the end of class, and even during the class, you can actually see (the amount of effort) in their faces and how much they like it.”
Zhang, whose parents are software engineers, expressed similar sentiments about the program.
“They don’t want to go (when class ends), and they want to work on their projects outside of the class,” she said. “It’s a good feeling that you definitely are making an impact on the girls.”
Zhang and Nagesh don’t work alone as CodeChic mentors. Their team includes Aria Coalson, Maya Kumar, Alana Beyer, Nancy Li and Hannah Spray; all of them are students at local high schools.
Scratch sessions are scheduled Wednesdays at Springer School, and Python on Mondays at Landels. Another Python class launched recently and is slated to run through the end of the school year at Bubb Elementary School. All classes are semester-long and held in the schools’ computer labs.
Parents may enroll their children in CodeChic through their school, if the program is offered there. If the school does not offer it, they may contact the CodeChic team through their website or email them. Zhang and Nagesh said the team will try to organize a class at the school.