Girls Who Code club coming to Nevada County | TheUnion.com

Girls Who Code club coming to Nevada County

Emily Lavin
Staff Writer

Bitney College Preparatory High School and the Nevada City Rotary Club are teaming up to help young women hone their computer science skills and explore career opportunities in technology.

The charter high school and service-based club are co-sponsoring the Nevada County chapter of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit founded in 2012 that aims to close the gender gap in computer science by teaching girls about programming, web design, mobile development and robotics.

The club is open to all girls in grades 6-12, and will meet from 4-6 p.m. on Tuesdays at Bitney for about five months beginning Jan. 12. There is no cost to participate in the club, but space is limited to about 20 students. Interested students can sign up online at http://www.bitneyprep.net/more-opportunities/girls-who-code.

No experience is necessary to join, said Ken Krugler, the president of Nevada City-based data consulting and training company Scale Unlimited, who will be the club's volunteer teacher.

"The only thing they need is an interest in learning." Krugler said.

The idea to start a local Girls Who Code chapter grew out of a conversation Rotary member Dave Bunje had nearly a year ago with his female cousin, who works for San Francisco-based Electronic Arts. Bunje's cousin mentioned the company's need for more female programmers, and also told him about Girls Who Code.

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Bunje saw an opportunity locally to help close that gender gap in technology, starting with the community's middle and high school students.

"For all of the tech progress we have in this county, we're not real advanced with what we're offering to youth," Bunje said.

Eventually, Bunje connected with Chris Schneider, who teaches physics and computer science at Bitney, and is business partners with Krugler.

Krugler agreed to teach the classes, and Bitney agreed to host the club on the school's campus.

Russ Jones, the school's director, said the mission of Girls Who Code fits in well with the school's focus on integrating technology and media into its curriculum. The school offers coding, digital media and video production classes to its students in an effort to help them develop hands-on, career-oriented skills.

"We just believe really strongly that without some kind of knowledge of what the workforce looks like and what jobs are available, students are sometimes disconnected from their learning, and they don't see a connection between what we're asking them to learn in school and how it's going to be applied after high school," Jones said.

The club's curriculum, which is provided by Girls Who Code, includes opportunities for the students to hear from guest speakers and take part in technology-related field trips, but the majority of the time is focused on project-based learning in programming languages Scratch and JavaScript, Krugler said.

The club focuses on a set of skills that isn't always emphasized during the school day, especially among young women, Krugler said.

According to Girls Who Code, 74 percent of girls express an interest in science, technology and related subjects in middle school, but just 0.4 percent of high school girls choose computer science as a college major.

"I think a big part of it is this perception and subconscious feeling among teachers that, for example, programming is for geeky guys," Krugler said. "And it's not."

Empowering female middle and high school students through Girls Who Code helps give them the confidence to pursue their interest in science and technology and make an impact in what have traditionally been male-dominated fields, Krugler said — and bridging that gender gap is long overdue.

"The industry is crying for this," Krugler said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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