The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects computer science research jobs will grow 19 percent by 2026. Yet, women only earn 18 percent of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the United States.
During the 2019-2020 school year, computer science teacher Michael Garrant introduced a cybersecurity competition for his students sponsored by Girls Go CyberStart. This school year, a number of competitors, including Lucy Clayton ’21, Beverly DaCosta ’21 and Seleena Desai ’23, were inspired to start their own club dedicated to coding.
Girls Go CyberStart is a national organization which gives students the opportunity to discover if they have an interest in cybersecurity or computer science through a fun suite of challenges, tools and games.
“After Mr. Garrant had us compete, we formed the Blair Girls’ Coding Club last year to further explore coding and computer science,” Lucy said. “We chose to expand the chapter to teach coding to the community.”
Mr. Garrant noted that he has very little involvement with running the club, aside from helping manage the club’s activities. “This year I have only offered encouragement and logistical support, I’m not even invited to club meetings, which is a good thing that demonstrates students’ leadership, comfort, and confidence in moving forward on their own,” he said.
The club is student-led by Lucy, Beverly, and Seleena, and it meets every other week for a one- to two-hour session. During the sessions, club members explore the core concepts of computer science, such as coding for websites, app development and robotics, through virtual courses. The club also provides girls with ongoing challenges and learning opportunities to support continuing skills development and open doors to future career options, education, and personal interests.
The Blair Girls’ Coding Club additionally provides members with a safe and supportive environment in which to learn more about coding and other computer sciences. Although meetings have been virtual, club members have been taking full advantage of their meeting time.
Mr. Garrant noted that club members will be participating in the CyberStart America competition this spring, in which they will compete against students across the country. This competition is used to teach students about the intricacies of cybersecurity, and students complete challenges and find flags to advance within the competitions. All in all, he said, it's a fun event to test their creativity and expand their coding knowledge.
Beverly noted there are around 11 girls in the club, depending on everyone's busy Blair schedules. Students have been building websites and teaching HTML, the coding language used in most websites.
“We really wanted to create a space where people could learn coding and build ideas off each other,” Beverly said. “We wanted the club to give people who knew how to code a place to work on projects and also to teach people completely new to coding and the opportunity it brings.”
The girls are looking to pass down their knowledge and skills to younger students, in hopes that girls will feel empowered and confident in male-dominated STEM fields.
“Personally, I have enjoyed learning about coding with everyone else,” Lucy said. “I went into this knowing very little about coding, and it has been so much fun learning, exploring and researching alongside the other members of the club.”