Friday, September 16, 2016

Hear It from a Girl Scout: Computer Science for All

Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay with United States Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.

Girl Scouts of the USA has committed to develop and launch a computer science progression for Girl Scout Daisy, Brownie, and Junior levels (girls ages 5 through 11), providing computer science opportunities to as many as 1.4 million girls annually in the United States and abroad (at USA Girl Scouts Overseas locations)—part of Girl Scouts' new national STEM initiative focused on engineering, computer science, and outdoor STEM experiences. GSUSA will add computer science programs for Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors (ages 12 through18) beginning in 2018–2019.

Earlier this week, the White House hosted a summit, Computer Science for All, and Girl Scouts were there! Kaitlyn, a Girl Scout from Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, attended this event and shared her experience with us!

On Wednesday, September 14, myself and five other girls from Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay participated in a Computer Science for All summit at the White House in Washington, DC. We were honored to represent all of Girl Scouting at this conference and have an opportunity to show off some of our skills. During the conference, groups discussed how they were making computer science—specifically coding—available to all, and Girl Scouts talked about how this could be integrated into Girl Scouts to include all girls. 

At the reception after the summit, we were able to demonstrate our projects that we made using various coding programs. CyNai and I presented games that we created with Scratch. C’Yenna and Sarah presented their website about What a Girl Can Do with Girl Scouts and included the different trips we’ve gone on with our Girl Scout troops. Autumn made a Choose Your Own Adventure game with Python, and Samantha wrote more than 3,000 lines of batch script code for her post-apocalyptic game, Project Aftermath.

While there, we were able to meet several authoritative figures from the computer science world. They gave us advice about how to make our current projects better and told us what they enjoyed about our projects. I was excited to talk to the MIT group that created Scratch and get tips from them on my Fish Game project I brought to the White House and another, more elaborate game project I am working on.  

Overall, it was amazing having the opportunity to attend this event and meet all the people behind the Computer Science for All Initiative. It was eye-opening to me and helped me realize how honored I was to have the opportunity to learn Scratch through Girl Scouting, when most kids do not have any exposure to coding. I go to Cab Calloway School of the Arts, and I am planning to take my knowledge of coding and some ideas back to my school so other students can experience computer science. Hopefully, the students at Cab can see how technology and the arts can come together.

The White House cupcakes were amazing and I will definitely hang on to the Hershey Kisses box with the White House logo and President Obama’s signature on it well after the chocolate is gone. I appreciate Girl Scouts of the USA, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, and the White House for providing this cool opportunity to us. Technology runs the world and is very much a part of our everyday lives. To move forward we need the next generation to have a better understanding of how the technology around them is created and operates.