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Ayve and a group of girls holding their creations at the third Girls into Coding event.

By Avye

Hi! My name is Avye. I’m 11 years old and I’ve just hosted my 3rd Girls Into Coding event. Before I talk about it, I would like to tell you a little bit about my journey and my mission.

I started coding when I was 7 years old and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. My first experience was with Scratch. I’ve been lucky to have attended and participated in some great STEM events, courses, conferences and workshops, such as the Coolest Projects, Moz Festival, CoderDojos, Raspberry Jams, Maker Faire Rome, Young Coders Conference, The Generation Arm 2Z Program and Mobile World Congress 2019.

I really enjoy going to tech events as there are loads of people who want to share their interests and knowledge with you. These events and experiences have encouraged me to craft, code and design, and allowed me to discover new things. Raspberry Jams are very cool and you can join many different workshops, run your own workshops, or exhibit a project to the public. Coolest Projects is a fantastic platform that gives you the opportunity to showcase your work and to be part of a wide community of young makers. Events like this have introduced me to so many cool things too, such as the Micro:bit, the Raspberry Pi, Arduino, App Maker, Scratch, 3D printing, VR, AI, programmable electronic components and robotics.

I also enter tech competitions. Some I’ve won (the Coolest Project UK, The Micro:bit Birthday Challenge, The Inspiring Juniors UK), some I’ve reached the finals (The One to Watch – FDM Award, and Tech Playmaker Award – Booking.com), and some I didn’t win! But that’s okay – taking part in all of them has been an enriching experience in itself.

Now I use my skills and experiences to make robots and run workshops to share my knowledge with others. Most weekends I am either busy leading a Micro:bit workshop for CoderDojo at Kingston University and West London University, or working on other projects.

A girl working on a laptop.

I love coding and physical computing; I have a lot of fun using the Micro:bit and Raspberry Pi to control robots that I make out of upcycled objects. It’s great using different components and new types of technology.

The things that I make and projects that I have worked on have given me opportunities to experiment, invent, discover, share, network, collaborate, challenge myself and grow. I have learnt and continue learning from some fantastic mentors and role models, and there are lots of people that continue to inspire me. Sometimes it’s their ideas; their determination; their passion; their drive; their energy; their mission; their entrepreneurialism; their attitude; their definiteness of purpose or their courage.

I want to become a visible role model for young people in general, particularly for girls. I want to inspire more girls to get into coding, and to encourage more girl involvement in tech. I am motivated to create other opportunities to encourage more girl participation in tech.

After collaboratively leading a robotics workshop at Richmond Reference Library, which was only attended by boys, I was motivated to develop my own format for girls. I believe a good way to get more girls involved in the world of STEM is to take the lead yourself. So I decided to be proactive and organise (with the help of my parents) my own Girls Into Coding events.

A group of girls sat on chairs, listening to a presentation.

With this goal in mind, I successfully crowdfunded over £1000 to pull off my first Girls Into Coding event. It was free to attend and all the girls were presented with a Micro:bit, a physical computing kit and an inspirational book. It was launched in July 2018 and was attended by 15 girls, aged between 9 and 14.

Following the success of the first event, I decided to organise a second one which was also successfully crowdfunded through the generosity of the tech and maker community, as well as my friends and family. The second event was held on November 25th, 2018, receiving excellent feedback from the girls and their parents;. Many asked when the next one would be!

The Girls Into Coding project provides an opportunity for girls to explore code, physical computing and robotics in a secure, dynamic and supportive environment to help develop confidence in tech-based settings. So far, each event has also included lightning talks delivered by girls and women who are doing cool things in tech. Girls Into Coding #3, the most recent, was sponsored by Microsoft and took place at the Microsoft Reactor London on Sunday 28th April.

I am very passionate about these events and will strive to engage more girls with tech opportunities, to encourage girls to be involved in coding and tech, and to help address the female under-representation and gender-based discrepancies in STEM education and occupations. I will continue organising my Girls Into Coding events and I am truly grateful for the continued support of volunteers from the tech community, and for the faith and assistance from Microsoft.

 

THE WORKSHOP

So here we are, April 28th 2019, the day of my third Girls Into Coding event! The last two events were great and I was very excited about this one. I couldn’t wait to see if it would be equally or even more successful. Previously I had to crowdfund to run these events, but this time Microsoft Reactor sponsored my event. What an honour! A massive thank you to Jim and Emily for being in our corner!

On the morning of the event, I arrived early with my parents so we could set up. The Microsoft Reactor was definitely a good place to host the event – it’s a great space and it’s really welcoming. There was also loads of help available from the Reactor team, and with their help I even had time for a few games of table football, Sonic the Hedgehog and table tennis before guests started to arrive.

As everyone came in, I signed them in with the assistance of Chanel and Nay (from the Reactor team) and got ready to deliver my talk, “I’m a girl just like you”.  I wanted to give a talk to spread the message that girls can do or be anything they want if they are passionate and dedicate time to it. After my talk, I felt super happy and couldn’t wait to begin running my workshop.

This time, I decided to come up with a completely new workshop activity to run on my table. I conjured up a set of small robots from upcycled materials, all using the Micro:bit. Each robot had to be individually made and required a lot of designing, cutting, drilling, testing and modifying. The process was fun and I got a chance to be innovative. Several changes had to be made along the way to enable the robots to work as kits which could be assembled by the girls, as the kits were made up of several components, including servos, LEDs and sensors. On the day, the girls had to rebuild, wire up and then code the robots into action.

A Raspberry Pi device, with cables attached.

As for the other workshops, Ben and Val ran a Micro:bit pet workshop. It was a fun and creative workshop, which I think caught the girls’ imagination. Whilst having an element of electronics and coding, it also fostered design and crafting skills.

Llewellyn and Mikel ran a Raspberry Pi Camera workshop. The girls had an opportunity to make a cool digital device which was then coded with Python to capture photos and videos. This workshop was an excellent way to challenge the girls’ coding skills further and allowed them to have some fun documenting themselves.

One hour into the workshops, most of the girls had finished the practical side of their projects and were beginning to start the code. At this point, we all had a bit of a break and an opportunity to listen to two talks before resuming.

The first one, called “How to be the best you can be” was given by Yasmin Bey. She is the EU Digital Girl of the Year 2015/16, a Raspberry Pi developer, a speaker, entrepreneur, the everywoman One to Watch winner for 2016 and one of the Inspiring Juniors UK 2018 winners. She gave great advice, talking about why it is okay to make mistakes, to keep learning, to give back, to trust yourself and your own intuition, and to not underestimate the importance of hard work.

The second talk, ”Tech, parkour, and fashion blogging beyond fears” was delivered by Celine Boudier, who is Engineering lead at Memrise, a writer and alternative model. Celine encouraged us to go further. She told us that to progress you have to start with the basics, and with constant practice comes improved skills, knowledge and understanding. In summary, her message was “be what you want” and “do things beyond your fears”.

When the girls completed their workshops, they had a chance to interact with one another and look at each other’s projects. We finished off the day by presenting everyone with a Micro:bit starter pack, a “Women in Science” or “Girls Think of Everything” book, and a bag of swag of course! Microsoft Reactor even added some extra goodies into the mix.

I think Girls Into Coding #3 was a success, and I was able to gather very good feedback that will help me improve the next event. There was a steady hum of activity and excitement throughout the day, and I felt proud seeing the girls succeed with their projects. It was a pleasure to be a part of their journey.

Finally, I would like to give a massive thank you to all the amazing mentors & volunteers (Llewelyn and Mikel, Ben and Val, Mike, Tom and Kevin), speakers (Yasmin and Celine), Microsoft reactor team (Jim, Chanel, Nay and the tech, setup and security team), the Pimoroni team, the Micro:bit team and Digital Maverick (who generously sent me some empty Micro:bit boxes that I used to make the chassis for my robots), and not forgetting all the girls who came, and their supportive parents.

 

GETTING MORE GIRLS INTO CODING

If someone cannot get to one of my workshops, there are many other ways girls can get involved with coding and tech. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sign up to a CoderDojo. There are many around the country, so try different ones and find one that suits you.
  • Join a code club if there is one offered in your school.
  • Go to tech events such as Mozilla Festival. It is a very family-friendly festival, and the next one is on October 21-27 2019 in London.
  • Look out for the next Raspberry Jam, usually advertised on Eventbrite, and sign up!
  • If you have the opportunity, go to a Maker Faire. They take place all around the world! It’s a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to connect with a community of tech makers, and to discover new things that will definitely inspire you!
  • Go to Liverpool Makefest. It’s completely free to attend, and it’s jam-packed with fun things to do for all the family! The next one is on June 29th, 2019.
  • Visit a Makerspace and join one if you can!
  • Stemettes. They run regular events for girls throughout the year.
  • YouTube videos are a great resource when you are learning things on your own.
  • You can subscribe to the MagPi Magazine.
  • Visit the Micro:bit Foundation website and try out some of the projects. They are fun to make!
  • Visit the Raspberry Pi website and try out some projects! There are plenty of tutorials
  • Regularly browse EventBrite for tech events for young people.
  • Recommended languages/platforms:

My next Girls Into Coding event will take place on July 21st 2019 at the Microsoft Reactor! Tickets will be available in the near future on Eventbrite and the event will be promoted on my mum’s twitter account (@helenevirolan). The tickets go very quickly! If it sells out before you get one, I recommend putting your name down on the waiting list, as occasionally there are last minute cancellations!

You can find out more about me on my website: http://10tonolimit.com/ where I blog about my workshops, activities and other tech events that I go to.

Whatever you do, always have fun and enjoy it!