Pivotal hosted Girls Who Code, a 7-week summer program teaching computer science to girls, here’s what they built.
In 2011, Marc Andreessen said that “software is eating the world,” predicting in his Wall Street Journal essay that every company would become or already was a software company. Five years later, companies are scrambling to refactor themselves as software companies and disrupt their respective industries. But as industries transform, jobs grow, and software continues on its march to conquer the world, an unavoidable question comes to mind: where are the women?
While the emergence of a powerhouse industry offers much in terms of innovation and jobs — the lack of support for women is a growing blight on the diversity front. At Pivotal, we’re chipping away at this gap and aim to encourage more women to join the exciting field of computer science — one of which is through our partnership with Girls Who Code, a non-profit dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. This year, we had the privilege of hosting a 7-week summer immersion program in our Palo Alto offices.
What follows is a sampling of the Girls Who Code project groups and a discussion (in their own words) of their projects — which ranged from subjects like healthcare to augmented reality — their aspirations, and the significance of women in tech.
The Bots Are Coming
Sasha, Sandra, Katie, and Maryam
For many members of the Pizza Bot project group — prior to Girls Who Code — coding and computer science were never priorities and often sat backseat to other interests. Even in the tech-saturated world of the San Francisco Bay Area, many of the project members approached computer science with apprehension.
A Doctor In Your Pocket
For Priya and Kaitlyn, who became friends through their local Girls Who Code club, interest in the intersection between healthcare and technology led them to their idea for a “Pocket Doctor” as their final project. “We’re focusing on people living in developing nations who don’t have as much access to healthcare. And since people in these countries [often] die from preventable diseases, we wanted to figure out a way to [combat that],” said Priya.
The Pocket Doctor group weighed the different platforms they could use to host their project and ultimately decided on a native app for smartphones which allows for use even without reliable internet access. They divided the app into different sections, each dedicated to to different diseases. “Our goal is to have a page for each of the top 10 biggest causes of death in these developing nations,” said Priya “If we still have time, we’re aiming to figure out a way to break the language barrier and the literacy barrier. Maybe by having the app be programmed to speak out loud and read the writing to people in their native language.” Priya and Kaitlyn also wanted to include features that allow users to locate medical help and tips to prevent diseases.
“If we still have time, we’re aiming to figure out a way to break the language barrier and the literacy barrier. Maybe by having the app be programmed to speak out loud and read the writing to people in their native language.”
After participating in their local Girls Who Code chapter and the Pivotal Summer Immersion program, both Kaitlyn and Priya feel inspired to pursue computer science in the future. For Kaitlyn, the summer gave her a path. “Technology is extremely prevalent and I want to go into robotics,” she said. Kaitlyn also spoke of how current events helped shape her outlook “A week ago, I was actually sitting on my bed watching the NASA rocket launch — the Falcon 9. I don’t want to be an astronaut — that sounds kinda scary — but building rockets sounds awesome.” For Priya, learning how to code will help her regardless of the field she pursues. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing in college, I don’t think I’ll be majoring in computer science,” said Priya. “Knowing [coding] will be a really important skill to have and no matter what I do, I’ll always have to understand technology and how it works and how the people in tech who I’m working with think.”
Escape the Room
Arushi, Kate, Tienshung
With the rise of augmented reality in all facets of the tech industry, Arushi, Kate, and Tienshung were interested in incorporating the absorbing experience into their final project. The group decided to do an “Escape the Room” game in which the participant could scan QR codes from print-outs and be given clues or puzzles to solve. The group is utilizing a software called Zapworks to create the interactive QR Codes. Their goal is to make an Escape the Room experience — which are often costly — accessible to all. “When you do an escape the room [experience], you usually have to plan ahead and book the room,” said Tienshung. “[With our game] you can just buy our printouts online and print it out right then and there. You don’t have to do any planning ahead, you can just do it in your house.”
For Arushi, Kate, and Tienshung, the summer immersion program gave them a chance not only to learn how to code, but exposed them to women working in the tech industry as well. “I feel like we’ve met so many powerful women who know that they’re minorities in this field and still go ahead with it and inspire other girls to do this,” said Arushi. “When you think about [tech] you think about guys, and girls are just not as welcome. Like I don’t want to sign up for the computer science class at my school because there’s only guys,” said Tienshung “[Girls who code] gives us a chance to have an equal opportunity and feel comfortable.”