Girls paired up to complete their final projects, from mobile apps to computer games.
By Grace Nasri (Managing Editor, FindTheBest)

The first inaugural class of Girls Who Code graduated last Thursday after the 8-week summer crash course in technology and computer science. From about 100 applicants, 20 girls from underserved high schools across New York were chosen to participate in the summer program supported by big-name backers including Google, GE, Twitter and eBay. The summer program began July 9th and included classes five days a week from 9am to 5pm; each week covered a different topic from mobile apps to entrepreneurship.

The new program, founded by Reshma Saujani, hopes to help close the gender gap in the tech world by increasing the number of women who graduate with computer science-related degrees and go on to land jobs in the tech world.

Girls Who Code aims to increase the number of women in tech by bringing in leading female educators, engineers and entrepreneurs to teach teenage girls subjects like robotics, web design and mobile development.

By the end of the program, the girls have a solid introduction to a number of computer science languages including Python and JavaScript.

During the last two weeks of the program, the girls paired up to complete their final projects, which included a range of finished products from mobile apps to computer games. Last Thursday, the 20 graduates presented their final projects at the Google building in New York.

Cora Frederick, who was part of the graduating group, explained how she had benefited from the program.

“Girls Who Code has shown me so many types of careers and all the possibilities you can do with a computer science degree,” said Frederick, whose project was titled Classifying Tumors. For her project, Frederick “researched the manipulation of decision tree algorithms to improve the accuracy of machine-learned predictions of whether a breast cancer tumor is benign or malignant.”

Maliyah Greene, Nikita Rau and Julia Geist created the JavaScript-based computer game Wander. The girls built the game because they felt that many games today are static, lacking depth. “The user plays the game in first person and makes decisions that lead to different results. In the game, you’ve been kidnapped and you need to find your way home — but you can’t remember where your home is. To find your way home, you have to accomplish missions, which reward you with flashbacks. Once you get enough flashbacks, you can remember where your home is,” Julia said, adding that they learned JavaScript in less than a week.

Masuma Ali and Khady Samb created a website called Learn CS Programming, a site to share information about computer science. Sharing her experience with Girls Who Code, Samb said, “This program was a big opportunity for me because I’ve always been interested in computers and how they work. When I found out about the program, I knew I would like it. I especially liked that it was a place where we could share our ideas.”

Ali explained that before the summer program, she didn’t have much of a background with computers:

“When I was in Bangladesh I didn’t know how to even turn on a computer. My cousins used computers to play games and I was always jealous that they were using computers. Because of my interest in computers, my ESL teacher told me about Girls Who Code. I’m lucky to have gotten in.”

Ashley Erenburg and Maria Gonzalaz created Say Something, an Android app that helps concerned New Yorkers find shelters and soup kitchens for homeless people. Based on the user’s location, the app provides walking directions to the nearest shelters and soup kitchens. The app also connects users with Volunteer Match for people who are interested in learning about volunteer opportunities.

For their final project, Kristin Cour and Pritha Day created Handi Help, an Android app that tackles the issue of limited mobility. The app currently has maps of five of the highest traffic subway stations but hopes to expand to cover all subway stations in New York City.

“Handi Help gives you a map of the subway station and all the elevators, exits and other things that are wheelchair accessible,” Day explained. “And you don’t need an Internet connection, because when you’re underground you don’t always have internet access,” Cour said, adding that the maps of the subway are actually screenshots previously taken.

Some of the other projects included:

Mood Foods, a mobile app available on Android, was created by Mahlika George and Vera Tineo to help users find restaurants that “correspond with their cravings” based on a user’s location.

Capture The Memory is an Android app built by Arianna Alleyne and Jocelyn Stevens to “provide a fun and personalized scavenger hunt of New York City.” Alleyne explained, “Typical tour busses are generic and not personalized. Capture the Memory offers a personalized scavenger hunt through all the boroughs.”

Scoop Stacker is a computer game co-created by Diana Navarro. “We based this game off of the game Sandwich Tracker. We built it in JavaScript so you can play it on any device that has a web browser,” Navarro said, adding, “The Girls Who Code program has literally inspired me in so many ways; just by seeing women in the tech field, it has inspired and motivated me to do what they do everyday.”

JavaScript based computer game Deluminate was created by Mahzabin Hasnath and Lucie Pierre-Louis, who explained, “Many games don’t have a story that users can connect with. We created Deluminate as a computer game that users can relate to.”

Kristen Titus, the executive director of Girls Who Code, told Women 2.0, “Girls Who Code has developed an innovative solution to a much talked about problem, and in its first year of the program, has seen dramatic results. Our young women are poised to do big things.”

Though this year’s program has come to a close, Saujani plans to introduce the program to more than seven cities across U.S. by next year. To learn more about the program, visit Girls Who Code.

Editor’s note: Got a question or answer for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Grace Nasri is Managing Editor at FindTheBest, a comparison search engine. Prior to FindTheBest, Grace was as an Assistant Editor at an international Iranian newspaper. She is a contributing blogger for the Huffington Post. Grace holds a BA in Political Science and Global Studies from UC Santa Barbara and an MA in International Relations from New York University. Follow her on Twitter at @GraceNasri.