The first week of the school holidays for many in the UK saw the return of the Festival of Code (Foc). This event ran from the 27th July to the 2nd August and brought together more than 1,000 young people at 70 regional centres for this annual hackathon.
This year, though, the organisers are proud to have increased the number of girls taking part from 5 per cent of the total in 2012 to 30 per cent this year. Emma Mulqueeny is the founder of Young Rewired State – the foundation that organises the festival. She puts this growth down to four things the foundation has done. In her own words:
- "Make it as mainstream as possible, more Festival of building digital stuff plus fun"
- "Have plenty to do that everyone can share e.g. photobooth, sprint challenges, maker fairs, graffiti wall, next gen tech"
- "Watched what everyone loved and did more of that, watched what made them yawn, did less of that"
- "Use social media channels such as Vine, Snapchat and Instagram"
Tellingly, she also notes that “when girls come back, they bring their mates (in most cases). When boys come back they don’t (in most cases).”
Mulqueeny says that the secret lies in changing the culture of these events to spark girls’ interest and make them want to get involved. “Bullying” the girls into wanting to code will never work. We couldn’t agree more, which is why we support organisations like Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), and events like the Women of the Future Conference to encourage young women to take up and excel in careers where they’re underrepresented.
At Intel we’re also proud to support coding in schools in our own way. We’ve donated 50,000 of our Intel Galileo boards to universities worldwide, so students can let out their inner maker and develop whatever their imagination allows, while building useful computing and engineering skills. We also sponsor events like the Coding Camp for Girls in Thailand, where we see great feedback like this:
“I knew I could do [programming] well, but my parents wanted me to study medicine. They were worried when I spent too much time with my computer, and none of the girls in my class wanted to study computer engineering. My family is very important to me, as well as my friends. I was not confident at all about what [career] to choose.”
We recognise the problems that Emma faces in getting girls involved in the FoC and applaud everything she and Young Rewired State has done to decrease the gender gap.
The winning projects at the FoC were truly inspiring, featuring Bouy, a rubber duck that measures and sends back climate information; PedalPlan, an app designed to plan the safest possible cycle route without compromising speed; Arduduck, a USB dongle that plugs into any computer to automatically change accessibility and input settings and P.U.M.P.S, winner of best in show which automatically turns off petrol pumps based on your car’s identity so you don’t fill up with the wrong type of fuel.
Seeing a generation of boys and girls calling themselves hackers, coders and makers gives us hope for the future of our industry, and for the future of these bright young sparks.
Have any of your students taken part in any of these events or programs? Does your school offer coding or computing lessons? We’d be really interested to hear your thoughts. Let us know in the comments below, or via our Twitter or Facebook page.