Group gets girls into cod­ing … via moms

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - NI­COLE O’REILLY nor­eilly@thes­pec.com 905-526-3199 | @Ni­coleatTheSpec

Sheri Hill is on a mis­sion to in­spire girls to code, one mom at a time.

Once a month she meets with a group of moms, and their kids, in the com­mu­nity room of Hamil­ton’s Main Street West Forti­nos and teaches ba­sic com­puter cod­ing. The group — Moms who code (so girls will code) — was born out of the idea that there are too few girls in com­puter sciences.

Hill teaches math and com­put­ers at Craig Kiel­burger Sec­ondary School in Mil­ton and said she would of­ten find only about two girls in a com­puter class of about 25.

“I wanted to find a way to in­spire moms first,” she said, adding that moms will in­spire their kids.

The group be­gan about six months ago with only a few moms out of Hill’s home. It’s now grown to up­wards of 30 peo­ple a month and now in­cludes their kids.

“I like to re­fer to it as a su­per­power,” Hill said about com­puter cod­ing.

The work is like a puzzle or game that can be ad­dic­tive, she added.

When the group gath­ered this Sun­day they were work­ing with Scratch — a free pro­gram­ming lan­guage where you can cre­ate in­ter­ac­tive sto­ries, games, and an­i­ma­tions. The cod­ing lan­guage uses blocks that fit to­gether to form spe­cific tasks, lay­ered with im­ages and sound. In one game they pro­gram a cat to chase af­ter stars, while avoid­ing three float­ing oc­to­puses.

At one ta­ble sits three gen­er­a­tions of one fam­ily, grandma (Lau­rie Hart­ley), mom (Michelle Baker) and six-year-old Claire Baker who ex­cit­edly shows off her games. “I re­ally like cod­ing,” she says. Michelle be­gan tak­ing the classes months ago and re­cently asked her mom and daugh­ter to join. She said she loves the lessons that come with cod­ing, be­cause the only way to get it right is by trial and er­ror.

“We don’t teach kids to fail,” she said, ex­plain­ing that cod­ing typ­i­cally never works the first time and there is a lot to be learned when you have to keep try­ing.

“It’s so sat­is­fy­ing when it does work.”

Emma Bur­don is a 16-year-old Grade 10 stu­dent at Craig Kiel­burger, who brought her mom with her for the first time so she can get an un­der­stand­ing of cod­ing.

Bur­don said she first learned about cod­ing briefly in math class and found that far from be­ing in­tim­i­dat­ing, it was fun.

Now she’s one of only 36 girls se­lected to at­tend a Univer­sity of Water­loo girls cod­ing camp for a week in May.

Moms who code (so girls will code) is open to new mem­bers and events are or­ga­nized through a Face­book group of the same name.

NI­COLE O’REILLY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Sheri Hill meets with moms and their kids once a month to teach them about com­puter cod­ing.

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