What a way to start off a weekend! I had the privilege to volunteer for the Black Girls Code Game Development Workshop at Miami-Dade College this weekend. It was such a great experience to meet Kimberly Bryant, the Founder and Executive Director of Black Girls Code, and Marcella Grant, the Program Manager. The workshop brought in over 40 enthusiastic girls ages 7 – 17, and their parents, and provided them a fun-filled day of game development.
I first learned of Black Girls Code by watching “Black in America” by Soledad O'Brien on CNN. My personal curiosity was piqued when I first met and interviewed Meka Egwuekwe, the Tech Lead of the Memphis Chapter of Black Girls Code (you can listen to his interview here). Meka explained the mission and how the workshops run, but I really had to see it for myself. It was really cool!
The workshops use MIT's Scratch, a web-based coding system which allows children (and adults) to create code for simple and fun games, stories and animation. Many of the girls arrived to the session never having used the Scratch software before. Scratch simplifies coding for kids which in turn lends to a really fun workshop experience. As the day progressed, I could see the girls easily learned the basics of the software and quickly grew their skills. And better yet, their confidence levels soared as their games took shape, and they added their own personal touches, such as colors, flashing animation, sound effects, and various movements.
Many of the children were so shy when they arrived in the morning, they didn't want to enter the computer lab. But by the end of the day, six pairs of girls, proudly presented to a room of parents, siblings and volunteers. Each team introduced themselves, explained what they learned and then shared their custom video games. Some of the creations were simple ping-pong games that made funny noises when a ball hit a paddle. One team even created game with a main character that walked through the woods and had conversations with other characters in the forest. It was awesome!
Overall, it was a blast! The self-confidence these young ladies showed was amazing. And I'm sure many of these young ladies will be leaders in technology in the near future.