Anna MedvedAnna Medved, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student at Sandwich Secondary, takes part in the university’s first-ever coding workshop for girls.

High demand for University’s first-ever computer programming workshop for girls

Spots went quickly for the University of Windsor’s first-ever Go CODE Girl workshop for girls in Grades 7 to 11.

A packed room of 40 participants learned the basics of Python, a computer programming language, February 24 at a free workshop hosted by the university’s Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Science.

“In Canada, we have a huge void and gap, not only in gender but also in skilled programmers,” says Ziad Kobti, director of UWindsor’s School of Computer Science. “We have a very small number of females who pursue careers in computer science and yet the employment after a four-year degree is nearly 100 per cent. Thanks to local donors, we’ve established a female entrance scholarship to encourage women to apply to this exciting field.”

Sponsored province-wide by the Ontario Network for Women in Engineering, Go CODE Girl aims to educate, inspire and equip girls with the digital skills, confidence and resources needed to pursue education in technology, computing and engineering.

Most of the girls who registered had previously participated in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related outreach events hosted by UWindsor. Anna Medved, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student at Sandwich Secondary, said her interest for science and engineering sparked at a young age thanks to her parents who both work in STEM-related fields.

“It’s been there all my life and I guess it’s normal for me to go that way,” she said at the event after learning to code for the first time. “Maybe girls who don’t have that background or role models in these fields don’t think of it as an option or find it interesting.”

Medved said she will most likely pursue an education in civil engineering because she’s interested in the composition of structures.

“Today, I learned how to do Python coding and turtle functions. I thought it was pretty cool to learn how the computers do stuff for you and if I do go into engineering, I may have to use programming when working with blueprints or when I have to show how different parts work together,” she said.

Jennifer Johrendt, the engineering faculty’s assistant dean of student affairs and associate professor in the mechanical, automotive and materials engineering department, said at previous events, some female students said they feel more comfortable trying things for the first time when they’re around female peers.

“We also have some pretty experienced programmers here today, so it’s a great way for the girls to educate each other and try things for the first time in a comfortable environment,” Johrendt said.

Kobti said programming requires you to learn and record step-by-step how to use computer logic to solve problems.

“Hopefully, the girls unraveled the mystery of how to solve a problem by telling the computer how the solution works so the computer can carry out the solution. That’s what we call coding.”

View photos from the event on UWindsor Engineering’s Facebook page.

Kristie Pearce