This summer, my daughter was blessed with the opportunity to attend a summer girls coding camp at Mississippi State University. The university dubbed this camp Digital Divas. To say it was a great experience for my daughter would be the understatement of the year.
It started out with us, nervous parents, delivering our child to a dorm at the university. We were about to leave her for 5 days, something we have never done before. We walked her in, filled out the proper forms, and got her settled in her dorm. We talked to several parents and the staff members, and eventually, we were all gently pushed out the door.
The rest of what follows comes from my daughter as she told me what she did.
Initially, the girls had a getting to know you activity and a scavenger hunt. They then got their Sphero, which each girl got the keep. I got pics and videos through MMS of them going nuts with Sphero.
The next day, they took the girls to a ropes course. The idea here was to build friendships and a sense of teamwork. The girls had a great time doing this, even if it was hot outside.
When they returned from the ropes course, the girls started attending classes. They learned about phishing. My daughter loved learning how to identify when emails are phishing attempts. She came back with real information about how to tell if an email is really from the company they say they are from. As a parent, and a teacher, it was really cool watching her point out indicators.
They also went to a photo forensics course. She simply loved this class. In this class, they learned how to identify if photos are altered in any way. As a kid, they loved this. They left camp figuring they would catch people photoshopping photos left and right. If nothing else, the excitement was great to see.
The girls also attended a password cracking course. In reality, from what I gathered, this was really more along the lines of how to create a strong password, and why certain elements of a password make it harder to crack.
The National Security Agency also came to talk to the girls. They simply loved this. Loved it. I think the girls had songs from spy movies playing in their heads, but they loved learning about cyber-security and what the NSA does… or at least what they tell us they do 🙂
There were several classes, and a culminating project using Finch robots. With the robots, the girls coded the robots to perform certain tasks. They coded them using Snap. A language that allows the user to drag and drop blocks of code to command the robot.
While watching the girls demonstrate the final projects, I found what I felt to be the best part of the program. I saw my daughter’s group have a technical issue with the robot. Keep in mind, we are talking about girls around 12 years old. It was a proud moment to see my daughter swing around the desk to the computer and instantly go into troubleshooting mode. There was no looking for help, no “what do I do” moments, just a process. Sure, she was tense, but she got it done. That is her figuring it out at the top of this post. She got the issue straightened out in about 20 seconds and the Finch was off and running. The fact that she learned the confidence and skills to troubleshoot why a program (small though it was) failed and fix it on the fly was worth every stress filled moment we spent as parents away from our daughter.
Look around, there are camps out there for kids to learn to code. It’s a field that is under-represented with regard to females. I know that I will certainly send my daughter back next year for camp once again.