By Tammy Schneider
Showing their girl power, eighteen female students from St. Anthony’s School, known as Hacker Gals, have been participating in twice-weekly training sessions that are preparing them for careers in computer science.
The girls, in grades six through eight, committed to a six week training course on their breaks and free time, in order to take part in the program. They are learning how to write code, which designs a set of instructions for a computer that tells it how to perform a specific task.
“Girls are underrepresented in the field of computer science,” said resource teacher Jen Brown. “ We are trying to close that gap and get them to become role models for other girls.”
Brown and colleague Monique Boivin, a teacher at St. Anthony’s School, describe the training process as intensive, and requiring a big commitment from the students. But learning the basics now enable the girls to continue their studies in high school and university. It is also laying the foundation for them to be “eligible for jobs that may not even exist yet,” said Brown.
Career opportunities that currently use the technology the girls are learning include positions at tech start-ups, working at companies such as Netflix or as an aeronautics technician.
This is the fifth year that Hacker Gals has been offered, and the third year the school has been running the program. On Dec. 11, the St. Anthony’s students participated in a nation-wide “hack-a-thon”, that brought together other girls participating in the program through a live feed shown in each classroom. In each school, the students were divided into teams of two, and challenged to create a project that supported the 2019 theme entitled Leaders in Herstory. Students Sappho Hunter and Charlotte Fludder chose to create a flipbook that focused on Time Person of the Year Greta Thunberg. The content would details aspects of Thunberg’s drive to prevent climate change and how people viewed her. They used lynxcoding.org to complete their project.
“Last year I had a blast coding,” said Fludder. “You learn a lot about girl power.”
“I’ve participated in the Hacker Gals program for two years,” said Hunter. “I think it is really important because as youth and as girls, we need to show that we are capable of anything we want. We need to know that it doesn’t take a lot to make a change – to be inspiring and be inspired.”