CS Interview #3: GWC Summit held by Amador Valley Girls Who Code Club

Amador Valley High School Girls Who Code club (AVHS GWC) is a chapter of the national GirlsWhoCode organization. Through introducing girls to coding, they hope to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM and close the gender gap in technology. For my third interview in my CS Students Interview Series, I talked with Anusha Maheshwari from AVHS GWC about their award winning GWC Summit. 

When did you host the first GWC Summit and what inspired you to host the summit? 

We first hosted the GWC Summit in March 2020, and we were motivated by patterns in the statistics when it comes to girls in STEM, particularly in the tech sector. Studies show that girls tend to be interested in STEM at around age 11 but drop off at 15 due to a lack of opportunities to further this interest. In today’s workforce, women make up only 25% of the computing workforce, so we wanted to do something to give younger girls the opportunity to explore tech in a supportive environment.

What are your major goals in hosting this summit?

The main goal of the summit is to develop younger girls’ interest in STEM and to show them how fun coding can be! We hope to encourage the next generation of coders to pursue their dreams and to instill in them the confidence that they can succeed in a STEM-based career. 

What steps do you follow to plan the summit? 

This year we began planning around 3-4 months before the Summit, starting by deciding on a theme (women in STEM) and a coding tool (Python Turtles). We typically start with broader ideas, such as the Summit theme, as well as a general idea of what the curriculum would be. Also, we get grants done as soon as possible, because they were the main funding for the Summit. Closer to the event, maybe 1-2 months before, we start looking at things such as the venue, start sending out flyers for signups, and things like that. We also use this time to find smaller sponsorships, such as local businesses.

What sponsors did you have for the summit this year? How did you find and reach out to the sponsors?

Our sponsors this year were PPIE, Amador Valley PTSA, Gene’s Fine Foods, Costco, Portrait Displays, and AoPS. PPIE and the Amador Valley PTSA are locally based and both have annual grants, so we applied for those with a description of our event. As for the rest of the sponsors, we essentially cold-called them. We sent a sponsorship email to as many possible sponsors (focusing on companies in the tech industry) as we could. We also went to local businesses and explained our cause, and many were kind enough to help us, mostly by donating food.

How was the summit structured this year?

This year, our curriculum was divided into three versions: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Participants were assigned to rooms and levels based on age group, and each room had a high school lead mentor assisted by 3-5 other mentors. Each room was named after a famous woman in STEM that students based their projects on. After the opening ceremony with a message from our guest speaker, we went to our rooms to teach the curriculums and bonded as a group until lunch, after which we introduced and assisted students with the capstone project, chose winning projects from each room, and ended with our closing ceremony. 

What was taught at the summit?

This year we taught Python Turtles at the summit. We spent the morning teaching students the functions and letting them navigate the tool, and in the afternoon they completed fun projects, using what they learned in the morning to draw images, animations, and designs with Python Turtle. In previous years, we used MIT App Inventor and HTML.

How many students and members came to the summit?

About 130 student participants attended the summit. We had around 40 club members volunteer to be mentors/teachers, and about 10 adult mentors from various software jobs.

How did the summit go this year?

The summit was amazing this year! It was exciting to be able to hold the event in person again, and the participants enjoyed Python Turtles a lot. The mentors taught well, and by the end of the event, every girl had a project to show off. We were proud of all the projects made, and everyone really demonstrated their creativity and imagination with the theme, Women in STEM.

It was great talking to AVHS GWC about their award-winning summit. We wish them luck in their future endeavors.

Author: Amelia Kratzer

High Schooler based in Menlo Park, CA Programming lead Robotics team Founder + President M-A's Coding Club For Teens

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