WiSTEM officers host workshop for RMS girls

October 19, 2015 — by Katherine Sun

A Magic 8-ball glowed on one computer screen; a personality quiz stood out on another. One by one, 13 girls from Redwood Middle School (RMS) let out exclamations of triumph as their applications began to work.

On Oct. 10, Women in STEM (WiSTEM) Club’s four officers held a 5-hour application development workshop for RMS girls in Saratoga High’s Engineering Room. With the platform MIT App Inventor, senior Dorrie Tang, junior Katherine Sun, sophomore Caitlyn Chen and sophomore Sohini Kar taught the girls drag-and-drop programming.

WiSTEM kicked off the event with a general presentation on the STEM gender divide and goals for the day. After a round of icebreakers, they took the girls through the steps of building Mole Mash, a phone version of the popular arcade game Whack-A-Mole.

Sophomore Sohini Kar, the club’s treasurer, called the middle school girls “cooperative and eager to learn. They were attentive and understood any mistakes they made, which made it easy to teach them.”

The officers then led the girls through an individualized coding session, during which students created their own projects, and concluded the event with the club secretary sophomore Caitlyn Chen’s presentation on her summer experience building apps. By the end of the day, each student left the event with at least part of her own Android app.

The officers held the event with the hope to not only spark an interest in programming for girls but also encourage them to pursue fields in STEM.

“More often than not, high schoolers only have connections with their own peers,” Chen said. “They don't realize how important it is to foster the interests of the next generation and give back to the community we grew up in.”

WiSTEM officers spent over a month planning the event with their adviser, engineering and math teacher Audrey Warmuth. The process included making presentations, promoting their event, communicating with the office staff and learning how to use MIT App Inventor.

Because they had been unsure of how the girls would receive the workshop, the officers were overjoyed that the middle school students seemed filled with energy during the event and gave highly positive reviews through a survey afterward.

“The survey responses just made me feel that all the time and effort put into this event was worth it,” Chen said. “It just proved that we, as high school students, had the capability to put on an awesome event that others enjoyed.”

As a result of the workshop’s success, the officers plan to hold future events and extend the content to different programming languages.

“The [girls] have this excitement for learning that I haven't felt in a long time,” Chen said. “They reminded me about how amazing it is to learn new things, and they inspire me to continue to have confidence in my education.”


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