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Queens Chronicle

It does compute for three Queens girls

Boro scholars discuss their work in ‘Girls Who Code’ summer program

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Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:52 am, Thu Sep 4, 2014.

Computer programming is a man’s world.

Statistics stand by that assertion as a fact, and that gap is inspiring even big corporations to invest in closing it.

Among them is tele-giant AT&T, which has been sponsoring “summer immersion” programs for high school girls through “Girls Who Code,” the nonprofit run by Reshma Saujani, a former city deputy public advocate.

“We want our company to represent the population,” said AT&T’s New York director, Marissa Shorenstein. “The goal of the program is to give them the basic skills and wet their appetite about the tech field and to see if they potentially have interest in pursuing the field.”

The eight-week 20-student summer program at AT&T’s Manhattan office — one of 16 nationwide — aims to help girls advance in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields where they have been lagging.

Three of this summer’s graduates hail from Queens and spoke about their experiences during the program.

Joyce Gomez, 17, an incoming senior at Francis Lewis High School, found out about Girls Who Code from alumni of the program who spoke to her computer science class. The East Elmhurst teen was surprised that a class like that even existed. She applied and was accepted. The first few days were daunting.

“It was a little rough for me at first,” Gomez said. “I worked hard and ended up really liking the class.”

Mary Karroqe of Glendale, an incoming junior at Brooklyn Tech, found out about the class through daily announcements.

“I thought it was a really interesting opportunity to try something new,” she said.

For Naomi Keusch Baker, an incoming junior at Forest Hills High School, the program was an opportunity to sharpen her best skills.

“Math and science have always been my strongest subjects,” she said, adding that she tried out a DNA course last winter that she enjoyed, but decided wasn’t for her.

The summer course started July 11 and finished last week. The three girls each worked on different final projects with other girls in the class.

Joyce helped develop an app called Outdoorsica, which aims to promote exercise and outdoor activities.

“My group has recognized that a lot of children and adolescents are obese or overweight,” she said. “I really liked doing it,” she explained. “I can definitely see myself doing something like this in the future. For me it’s really fun.”

Mary and her group focused on robotics, which was her favorite part of the course. They built robots and choreographed dance routines.

“It was fun and interactive,” Mary said. “I had never played around with robotics before.”

For Naomi’s final project, she and her group developed an app as well, one aimed at helping kids learn languages.

Called Alpabuddy, the app translates words into various languages, one of them being Tibetan.

“They’re losing their language,” Naomi explained about why Tibetan was added.

Shorenstein said some of AT&T’s funding will go to help girls start STEM clubs in their respective schools, something the Queens trio is interested in doing.

“I’m going to try to see if I can have a Girls Who Code Club launched at my school,” Joyce said, adding that she plans to join the Robotics Club.

Brooklyn Tech already has a club, but Mary said she will look to expand it and join the Robotics Club at her school.

“This has made us all aware of the gender gap and lack of females in technology,” she said.

Naomi said her eyes were opened by the course.

“The program really encourages us to pay it forward,” she said. “I’m going to start a club at the Forest Hills library.”

Shorenstein said the program proves that girls can be tech savvy, if only they’re exposed to the material.

“To see how much they’ve taken to it just shows you that anyone could learn,” she said.

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