Bytes of Code 2018

August 1, 2018 – August 8, 2018

This summer, WICS helped out with Bytes of Code, a week-long program created to teach middle school and high school girls the basics of computer science. This camp is intended to encourage young girls to consider pursuing a career in Computer Science.

On the first day, the students were introduced to coding using Spheros, where they could use block-coding to program a robot and tell it where to go. This fun activity was also a good visual representation of how you can use code to tell a computer what to do. The girls’ next project was to create apps using Thunkable. The girls really enjoyed this activity since they could design the way their app looks, and some of them even went on to create another app on their own time! Finally, the girls were challenged to use HTML & CSS to create their own website. They were excited to see their webpages showing up on their own URLs, and they took time style their website and make it their own. The girls received certificates and got to demo their websites to their parents.

On the last day of Bytes of Code, we visited Google Irvine. Engineers from google gave us a cool tour of the office. They also gave us great advice for women interested in pursing a career in technology. The girls got to ask questions to the engineers and learn more about Google and working in the STEM field.

Bytes of Code was a great way for the girls to become familiar with computer science. A special thanks to Erica Hsueh and Ashley Hsieh for organizing the curriculum, and to NCWIT for making this possible!

WICS Spring Quarter Week 8: Amazon Alexa Skill Workshop

On May 21, 2018, WICS held an Amazon Alexa Skill Workshop. Representatives from Amazon came by and taught us step-by-step how to build an Alexa Skill. First, attendees got to grab food and refreshments as well as socialize with one another. Then, we were ready to code. Our goal was to create an “Echomon” skill that tells us which Pokemon is at a given index in the Pokedex. We learned how to get Alexa to return information after we ask certain questions. Amazon reps also went over how to debug our code to make sure our Alexa Skill was working as expected. In the end, we had a skill where we could ask “Who is Pokemon 25?” and Alexa would respond with the Pokemon at that index: “Pokedex entry 25 is named Pikachu.” Mission accomplished! This was a very fun hands-on activity that showed us how easy it was to build an Alexa skill. This event was a success!

WICS Spring Quarter Week 7: Women in Tech Panel with SendGrid

On Monday, May 14th, WICS and SendGrid held a Women in Tech panel at the new SendGrid office, 400 Spectrum Dr. Approximately 30 students drove to the office and attended this event. From 5:30pm to 6:00pm, students had dinner provided by SendGrid in the office. The panel started at 6:00pm, where 5 female representatives from SendGrid were invited to the panel. At the beginning they each talked about their career path, how they ended up working at SendGrid and why they decided to stay at this job. Then they talked about how the number of women in technology has changed over years. One representative shared her experience of being the only the female in the team when she first started working 10-20 years ago, and other representatives agreed with her and said they also had the same kind of experience. Over the years, more and more females have joined this field. Now they have many more female co-workers. At the end, they were open to questions, one male student asked what men can do to help women in this field. After the panel, a lot of students stayed to have conversations with the representatives. The event ended at 8 pm. Overall, it was a successful and eye-opening event!

WICS Spring Quarter Week 6: Acing the Technical Interview with The Portal

On Monday, May 7, WICS held an Acing the Technical Interview Workshop hosted by The Portal. Alan and Charith, who both graduated from UCI, led the presentation. They went through the basics of what goes on in a technical interview. They also explained the dos and don’ts of an interview as well as some misconceptions and tips. We learned a lot about how to sell ourselves to a recruiter. Preparation is key, so Alan and Charith made sure to explain what we should research before interviewing at a company. Their presentation had several inspiring quotes that helped us understand some important concepts. Here’s one by Martin Fowler that I think is useful to us programmers: “Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand.” Of course, we also had a pizza break. This event was immensely useful to those of us who have upcoming technical interviews or want to prepare for future interviews. After this workshop, we’re ready to tackle any technical interview!

WICS Spring Quarter Week 5: Yoga and Study Session+Ice cream

On Monday, April 30th, the last day of April, WICS held a Yoga and Study session to help students release stress at DBH 6011. We had Ms. Natalie D’Azzo, the wellness & peer education programs manager from UCI Student Wellness and Health Promotion, to lead the Yoga session from 6-7pm. Around 14 people joined our Yoga session, we had a relaxing and peaceful yoga time with Natalie. Everyone said they enjoyed it. After the Yoga session, a lot of people came in for the study session. More than 40 people were in the room studying and mingling with friends. We had ice cream, cookies and popcorn. The study session ended around 8:30pm. Overall, it was a long but successful event!

WICS Spring Quarter Week 4: Blind Squirrel Games Debugging Session

On April 23, 2018, WICS hosted a Debugging session with Blind Squirrel Games. First, we ate pizza and socialized with other members. Then software engineers from Blind Squirrel told us all the cool stuff they do that their company. They taught us that debugging is an important part of their workday. After, the engineers talked about the basics of debugging. Their in-depth presentation showed us different ways to debug code, an important skill that is super useful to know in class as well as the workplace. Attendees left with a better understanding of how to debug code!

Women Empowering Women Lunch & Panel 2018

On April 21, 2018, WICS hosted a Women Empowering Women Lunch and Panel during Celebrate UCI. This lunch welcomed female ICS prospective freshmen and transfer students and their families. There was delicious catering provided for the event. Debra Richardson, founding dean of the Donald Bren School of ICS, helped lead the panel. She talked about the history of the ICS school as well as her contributions. Then, the WICS panel gave helpful advice to these prospective students, addressing concerns of a typical female ICS student and going over the many resources UCI has to offer. The panel had lots of experience to talk about. At the end of the panel, the students and family members had the opportunity to ask the panel questions, and they got swag for doing so! After the panel, attendees also had the opportunity to ask speak to the members of the panel one-on-one. This event was a great way for prospective ICS students to learn about UCI and being a female ICS student. Hooray for women in tech!

AspireIT 2018

April 14, 2018 – May 12, 2018

Once again, WICS has organized another successful AspireIT program and this time, it was in collaboration with the Girls Who Code club from Woodbridge High School. With the help of Avika Patel, a recipient of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing Award, AspireIT was able to kickstart their workshop series aiming to inspire girls to pursue computer science in the future. Throughout the five workshops that were held, the mentors introduced technological skills such as game development, web design, paper circuits, and robotics to 15 girls. Because the theme this year was #innovate, these girls worked in teams to create a final project using what they learned from our workshops.

By learning block-based programming through Scratch, the girls developed their own games and animations to showcase at the end of the first workshop and some of them even implemented Makey-Makeys to control their virtual simulation. For the second workshop, the girls transitioned from block-based to text-based programming by designing websites with HTML and CSS. This was a huge hit since the girls were able to express themselves as they personalized their websites, embedding links, pictures, and videos.

The AspireIT participants’ interest for technology was not the only thing that sparked. For the third workshop, the girls combined crafts and circuits to light up LED displays such as robots, angler fish, fireflies, light bulbs, etc. Last but not least, the girls put their block-based programming to the test by coding mini Spheros to complete a maze. There was also a guest speaker from Sphero who spoke to the girls about his experience educating students on computer science and how the girls could make a difference in the tech industry.

To wrap up the last workshop of the series, the girls formed small teams and built projects ranging from a Scratch game inspired by Flappy Bird to a tutorial website teaching others gymnastic techniques to a makeshift musical band using Makey-Makey and lots more. We were impressed as they combined aspects of different workshops for these projects, and were happy to see that parents and siblings of our students attended Project Day!

Although some of the AspireIT participants had prior experience with coding, everyone was able to expand their knowledge of computer science and technology by the end of the program. We asked the girls for feedback on the workshops and here are some of their testimonials:

“I enjoyed the freedom of customizing our games and using our imagination so that the game we made featured the things that we like.”

“I thought it was fun to see our code come to life. It was also fun to be able to interact with Makey Makey.”

“I thought it was a nice fun way to learn how to code and create video games which is what I plan on doing when I’m older and I liked that it was hands-on with the Makey-Makey and gave more visuals on how they work.”

“I liked being able to code, then seeing everything pop up, images, words with fancy fonts, etc.”

“I really liked making the lines and connections work. It was fun to look at everything light up.”

“I liked that we were able to work with actual robots and be able to move them using the iPads.”

WICS Spring Quarter Week 2: Intuit React Workshop

On Monday, April 9, WICS held an interactive React Workshop led by Intuit. About 100 people came to DBH 6011 to join in on the fun. First, we learned more about Intuit and what they do. Then Harris, an Intuit representative, led a step-by-step tutorial. Attendees brought their laptops and eagerly coded along, learning more about JS and React on the way. In the end, we had a fully-functional dog quiz app! Those who attended also got to eat great Mediterranean food and get some swag from Intuit. Thank you to everyone who attended, this event was a lot of fun!

#GirlsKnowCS Conference 2018

March 10, 2018

It is never too early to introduce Computer Science to girls and the #GirlsKnowCS Conference was a perfect example! This year, the Santa Ana Public Library hosted a conference for girls who are interested in Computer Science and invited WICS to come speak and lead a hands on activity. Ninety-five girls of all ages ranging from grades 4-12 gathered together at the Santa Ana Senior Center to listen to empowering women talk about their success story and participate in the fun workshops that were held.

Speaking of guest speakers, WICS had the honor of sending our very own Community Outreach Co-Chair, Rosetta Pendleton, to the #GirlsKnowCS Conference to share her journey of how she became involved in Computer Science. Rosetta’s story of how she taught herself programming skills due to the lack of CS resources in Hawaii and how she decided to move to the mainland in order to find more CS opportunities inspired the attendees. Rosetta demonstrated that despite one’s background, anyone can succeed in the Computer Science field.

There were two main workshops at the #GirlsKnowCS Conference: app development and binary bracelets. A representative from Microsoft provided Surface Pros to each group of attendees to help them develop an app idea using a drag and drop program. WICS led the binary bracelets activity and taught the attendees the concept of binary numbers through converting their birthdays to binary and representing it as a bracelet using alternating beads. Overall, the girls seemed to really enjoy the workshops as they were able to express their creativity in bringing their app idea to life and making something of their own using a CS concept.

WICS looks forward to collaborating with the Santa Ana Public Library on more events such as the #GirlsKnowCS Conference. Together, we hope to spark the interest in technology in more girls and close the gender gap.