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Girls Who Code club explores computer science at HHS


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — To the uninitiated, nothing in the block of text and symbols on Madelin Mozafari’s screen would indicate she had just formed a picture of a tomato using JavaScript, save for the words “tomato” and “stem” hidden away in a twisted mass of parentheses, equal signs, brackets and numbers.

Seniors Delyna Teshaye, left, and Sarah Graham work on a cartoon animation using Scratch as Girls Who Code meets Thursday at Huntington High School.
(Herald-Dispatch photo by Bishop Nash)

But as the Huntington High School freshman pecked and clicked around, her computer knew exactly what she meant — and a round, red tomato appeared.

In the early hours of homeroom before first period, about a dozen students gather in Tamara Westfall’s science classroom as part of the school’s Girls Who Code club — dedicated and organized to introduce students, particularly girls, to computer coding and related STEM interests.

“This is the first time they’ve had a coding club in the high school,” said Kheng Yap-McGuire, who organizes the club as a volunteer.

“What’s drawing them is the interest in learning and being introduced to computer science.”

In the club’s relatively short time as of yet, meeting around 20 minutes twice a week since mid-October, students have learned to code simple images and animations using JavaScript, Python and Scratch coding languages. Another popular program, EarSketch, allows students to code music over layers of tracks.

“Say you’re surfing on Instagram. I think, ‘I wonder what language they used to code that.’ You look at a website and think, ‘I can make that,'” Mozafari said. “You see how the numbers translate into pictures and other things you can do. It’s like math, but it’s like math in the real world.”

Girls Who Code isn’t limited to female members, and around half of members are boys with an interest in coding as well.

“You get to express your imagination and create it through code or music,” said Andrew VanHoose, a freshman with aspirations in video game design, as he and his friends toyed around in EarSketch and Scratch.

Girls Who Code is a nationwide nonprofit boasting around 40,000 members and 1,500 individual clubs across the country — becoming an established pipeline of young female programmers and engineers pursuing careers in the tech industry.

The local group is sponsored by First Sentry Bank and is also supported by volunteers Leah Ching and Andrew Ching, both Marshall University students and Huntington High alumni, and Kim Preece, professor of information technology at Mountwest Community & Technical College.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.

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