Coding in California

Junior Lily Sha learned to code at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco this summer with Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization looking to close the gender gap in the fields of computer science and engineering.

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Coding in California

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

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Type, compile, error, repeat. Junior Lily Sha spent seven weeks this summer in San Francisco at Twitter headquarters learning how to code, as a part of the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program.

“I was looking for science and engineering camps over the summer, and I ran across the Summer Immersion Program for Girls Who Code online,” Sha said. “I learned multiple computer languages – Scratch, Python, Javascript, CSS and HTML.”

Sha’s mother, Anne Behrenn, said that she was very excited when she found out her daughter got into Girls Who Code, and that she would be able to experience a different culture in a larger city.

“I think [Sha] couldn’t believe it, she was just really amazed that she got in and that she would be in downtown San Francisco for the whole summer, embedded in a corporation like Google or Twitter,” Behrenn said.

Sha said a majority of the girls at the program were from the nearby area, but she stayed with her aunt. A typical day for Sha began by waking up at 6 a.m. to take the subway from her aunt’s house to a stop near Twitter headquarters. After going through security, Sha said she spent the rest of the day attending classes taught by her Girls Who Code teacher, working on projects, or taking field trips to other tech companies.

“We would take notes, [but] it wasn’t really like school notes,” Sha said. “It was relaxing and fun to learn about coding, and our teachers taught us really well…We would do a lot of hands on work and take field trips occasionally to other tech companies.”

In addition to learning about computer science, Sha said she also had the opportunity to hear from many guest speakers that visited Twitter, such as comedians Kevin Hart and Amy Schumer.  

“Twitter has famous people coming in all the time for interviews,” Sha said. “Sara Haider was my favorite speaker…She’s done pretty amazing things with her life and it’s pretty inspiring seeing her do those things.”

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

Sha said while she has always had an interest in engineering, this summer was her first experience in computer programming.

“My mom had been talking to me about computer programming, but I didn’t have any idea what it was,” Sha said. “I thought it was like ones and zeros, but it’s so different.”

Sha said that while learning to program is difficult, it is now something she is incredibly passionate about.

Behrenn said that Sha had always been interested in the world around her, computers and how they work was just a part of that.

In middle school [Sha] had a great teacher who gave her a lot of positive feedback about her powers of observation, and told her that she could see things on a very detailed level, but still be able to see the big picture,” Behrenn said. “That was kind of the beginning of her feeling like she could really pursue science and math.”

“Coding is difficult – but fun,” Sha said. “It’s a lot of small details that you have to get correct or else your entire thing won’t work… It’s one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever done, [though]. I could sit in front of a computer for hours, that sounds bad but I really could. I love it.”

Principal Amy Murphy said she believes coding is a career area which will continue to grow and grow, and it is important for BVNW curriculum to reflect this.

“I think that coding is going to continue to be more and more of a career option for students,” Murphy said. “We have some programming classes [now] but not a lot… We’re always looking at how we can expand that because I think that’s a field that is just going to continue to grow.”

As for the future, Sha said she hopes to study computer science and mechanical engineering. She said she is currently working on an making her own iOS app, which she hopes will connect car enthusiasts.

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

Photo courtesy of Lily Sha

“I’ve started drawing out the prototypes for my app,” Sha said. “I would like to make it for people to be able to buy and sell car parts, post pictures of their cars and have people comment and create group messages.”

Behrenn said that she noticed definite changes in Sha after she got back from the program.

“[Sha] seemed to be more confident and happy when she got back and it just felt like she had seen a slightly larger world,” Behrenn said.

As for those interested in learning how to program, Sha said she encourages them to use the Internet to find resources.

“Explore online because that’s your biggest resource,” Sha said. “You don’t really think [computer science] affects the world that revolves around you, but it does. Every single part of this world is affected by computer science in some way.”

 


 

Sha’s supervisor has been contacted. We will add in their perspective if we reach them.