Girls Who Code participants in matching program t-shirts and teacher pose in front of Fablab

A "Sisterhood" of Programmers in Grades 5 - 8

On May 14th, 2024, the Somerville Public Schools Girls Who Code club chapter wrapped up their first year of programming with a student showcase. Girls Who Code is a nation-wide program whose mission is to “close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.” Girls Who Code clubs are free after-school experiences that offer a chance for students to join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models using computer science to change the world.

Program participants sitting at a table working on their projects

This year was the first year that Somerville Public Schools hosted a Girls Who Code club for middle grades students. The club, open to students of any gender identity in grades 5 through 8, met at Somerville High School’s FabLab each week for 10 weeks. The club was led by SHS Computer Science and Robotics Teacher Laura Peters, along with members of the SHS FRC Robotics Team 6201 Mayhew, Bhavroop, and Alison.

3 students coding on computers in fablab

Over the course of the 10 week program, students learned basic computer coding skills using the Scratch and MakeCode programming languages to make animations, games, and stories. Participants also explored physical computing tools like Makey Makey, LEGO robotics, and Circuit Playgrounds. Additionally, students in the program were visited by doctoral students and staff from the MIT Media Lab who are developing a new kids' programming app called OctoStudio. Finally, the students participated in "sisterhood" team-building activities and watched video clips about women's contributions to the field of computer science and technology.

Two program students present their project

On May 14th, families of students in the program were invited to a showcase in which students in the club shared projects such as a LEGO robot that carries cereal across a room and pours it into a bowl of milk, a robot that break dances and lights up with different colors, and a headband that lights up when the wearer moves or when the noise level in the room gets too loud. Other projects included an “escape room” app made using’s Blockly programming language, a “cat dance party” digital animation made in Scratch programming language, a robot that detects walls and table edges to complete an obstacle course maze, and a robot that uses whiteboard markers to create art!

A crowd of students and family members observe a student presentation in the fablab

Families whose students are interested in participating in Girls Who Code in the future can join the SPS Creative Computing email list here. Somerville Public Schools offers a range of out-of-school computer science and robotics activities, including 1-week Summer Robotics programs for middle grades students, the 10-week Somerville Robotics League for middle grades students, and the Somerville High School FIRST Robotics Team for students ages 14+. Somerville High School students can also choose from a range of computer science electives, including introductory Robotics and Hardware Engineering courses, to AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A. Contact Laura Peters for more information about these offerings!

This new chapter of Girls Who Code was made possible by a Somerville Math Fund grant, with materials provided by the Somerville Education Foundation, and in collaboration with the staff and directors of Fabville.

Laura Peters, SHS Computer Science and Robotics Teacher

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