We Attended a Coder Dojo Girls Only Hackathon. It Was Awesome.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was lucky to be able to attend one of CoderDojo's Girls Only Hackathon in London. As one of the newest member of Kano's team myself, I was very keen to be able to meet the participants, see them put together their computer kits live and help them get creative and understand their interests, questions, and sources of inspiration.

Today´s blog post is about my experience and why supporting these events is critical to support future generations of makers, inventors, and artists as well as empowering girls to chase after their dreams.

But, what is Coder Dojo?

CoderDojo is an open source, volunteer-led movement running free, not-for-profit, coding clubs and regular coding sessions for young people. At their sessions (Dojos) young people between 7 and 17 learn how to code, develop websites, apps, programs, games and more.

Dojos are set up, run and taught by volunteers. In addition to learning to code, members meet like minded people, show off what they’ve been working and make learning to code a fun and sociable experience.

At Kano, we share their vision of democratizing technology and making creativity through code accessible to anyone, all over the world. We firmly believe kids and adults should be able to understand what hides below the devices they use every day.

Bringing Computers to life

The event was mostly attended by children and parents, and there was good degree of diversity of cultural and social backgrounds. It was definitely a warm, positive environment for the girls to get straight into making computers and coding. Lots of volunteers were at hand, ranging from teenagers teaching Processing to teachers happily sharing their robotics knowledge.

As the hackathon began, kids got super excited about the Kano Computer Kits. Assembling them together was the first step, and one of the highlights of the overall experience, as they worked their way through the illustrated storybooks.

Then, their computers came to life, representing the 'A-HA!' moment when they realized they could build their own computer and make it work. Proud kids (and parents) across the room were living proof of how that sense of ownership kicks in when you make something from scratch.

Computers on, was time to try some apps, youngsters had a great time hacking through our customized version of Minecraft. With coding powers they were able to go through the step-by-step challenges, write their name in blocks and create shelters.

Adventure mode, the beautifully-illustrated game that takes you on a journey through your computer was a great hit too. Other fan favourites were also quickly discovered, including Make art and some kids even ventured into the realms of the Python programming language.

Why the need for a girls only Coder Dojo?

From my observations, a factor that tends to surface from technology workshop for kids is how important it is to create events for girls only. Not because there is a difference between how kids from different genders learn and do technology but because their self esteem and confidence levels towards it is shockingly different.

At this entry level it's crucial to raise this levels as high as we can and, amongst other things, one way to do it is by creating girls only activities so they feel they belong and take ownership.

In the US, for example, tech jobs are among the fastest-growing in the country, yet girls are being left behind. While interest in computer science increases over time, the biggest drop off happens between the ages of 13-17.

These events also serve as a great place to provide African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040.

The most heartwarming and inspiring moment of the evening for me was a little black girl saying "I will be a scientist" so confident and brave that made me believe the event was a success.

About the author: Murilo Polese is a Software Developer at Kano. He's passionated about human-machine interaction, generative art, synthesizers and a self-confessed homebrew computer enthusiast.