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Techsters: Girls Learn to Code at Mini-Hackathon


Recently, 150 middle school girls from across Central Virginia participated in a mini hackathon designed byCapital Oneand RichTech. These young women had the opportunity to explore technology by working with mentors and trying their hand at coding and app development. Techstersis an annual program and partnership between Capital One and RichTech and is part of Capital One's five-year, $150 million Future Edge initiative, which is designed to help empower more Americans to succeed in an ever-changing digitally-driven economy.


Research shows that despite great strides in education and workforce development, women continue to be under represented in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) A report from theUS Bureau of Labor Statistics states that by 2018 the majority of STEM jobs in the U.S. will be in Computing (71%). Currently, 57% of bachelor's degrees are earned by women, but just 12 % of them are in computer science. As technology continues to drive consumer needs and business goals, convincing girls that they need computer science and technology in their skill set is very important to preparing them for tomorrow's workforce.


“These young women are so smart and very creative. I’m just teaching them the basics of coding, and you wouldn’t believe the prototyping, the mock ups to final apps they produced. Truly amazing work.” shared Srilatha Ainala, Manager, Capital One Technology Software Engineer and Lead Volunteer.

During the event students learned to code by using the App Inventorand working on 2 app challenges- "Virtual Pet" and "Fingerpainting." The "Virtual Pet" challenge helped students learn how to code an app on their computer by picking an animal, adding a photo, and coding the animal to make sounds and do different tasks. Students were then able to use their app on a tablet and make their animal purr, meow, quack, etc. In the second app challenge, "Fingerpainting," the students sketched out an idea on a flipchart and learned how to code an app that "drew" their idea on their tablets. They also created a drawing app which matched the design and ideas they collaborated on using the flipchart.

Lola Sneddon, a 7th grader from Lucille Murray Brown Middle School was pleased to have this opportunity to learn all about technology and told us, "This event is really fun. We created a virtual pet app, a cute little puppy that when you shake my phone, he barks. With Srilatha’s help, she made it really easy and I can’t wait to show off my app to friends and family.”

Amarah Ennis, an 8th grader at Manchester Middle School has attended the Techsters event in the past where she learned how to assemble and program a Raspberry Pi microprocessor and continues to use her programming skills to create new games for her younger siblings to play. “The Finger Painting App really helped me understand prototyping better and the entire event was really inspiring. I’m currently in a special STEM environment and school, and my goal is to go to Yale to become a doctor. Technology will definitely play a big vital role for me," explained Ennis.


“RichTech works with Richmond businesses and organizations to support the growth of central Virginia’s technology-based economy,” said RichTech Executive Director Robby Demeria. “Part of this effort is inspiring and supporting young women to pursue skills in STEM fields during their middle school years, a time we know many lose interest in math and science. And, given that Capital One is one of the Richmond area’s largest employers and has a focus on hiring associates with STEM skills, it was an incredible opportunity to work with them to help our young girls start early to develop a love of learning, especially a love of learning about STEM topics,” said Demeria.

Watch this Science Matters Video of Techsters 2014 and discover the impact that this program is having on young women in our community.

More information on Capital One's Investing for Goodprograms. Stay connected with RichTech and future Techsters programshere.

Other great coding and technology sites to explore:

Click here for more Hot STEM Jobs in Virginia info.