Let’s Make Things Together!
“Programming is not magic inaccessible to regular folks. It’s easy. I wish someone would’ve told me this sooner!” –Geek Girls Carrots Maker Party participant.
This quote sums up what we are doing as Geek Girls Carrots (GGC) in Seattle and Europe. We want to debunk the myth that programming is for nerdy male math geniuses and that it’s a “boys’ club” unapproachable by women and girls. We provide opportunities for women to develop themselves, help for them to achieve their professional dreams and goals, and ways to attain their desired salaries. Our monthly meet-ups and weekly coding workshops allow us to do this. So when the opportunity to be part of a global campaign to increase web literacy came, it made absolute sense for us to participate vigorously!
When Sanda Htyte, a member, now a co-organizer of GGC Seattle, told me about Mozilla’s Maker Party a couple months ago, I got very excited. In the words of Mozilla’s Executive Director Mark Surman, Maker Party is “a great call to arms that puts the world’s users at the center of the web. Success in the 21st century depends on web literacy–and on making the web what we all want it to be.” Such an event gives us even more reason to keep doing what we’re doing.
We believe in the same goals of leveling the playing field. It’s not just about those who control the web or make the web today. It is very much about the users, who should also be part of the making. Women today want to be programmers, want to be more involved in STEM, and want to have equal pay in the tech industry (or any industry for that matter). We want to see more girls engaged, excited, and encouraged to pursue career paths in all things technology and empowered to know that they can.
Geek Girls Carrots was born out of a 2011 StartUp Weekend Poland’s lack of female participants in the event. The founders of Geek Girls Carrots, Kamila Sidor and Kamila Stepniowska, attended and were appalled to see the small ratio of women. But instead of getting discouraged, they decided to change this.
This is why Geek Girls Carrots organized–to create an open, friendly, and safe place for women to learn new skills, meet people, network and get inspired rather than discouraged.
In three years, GGC spread to 20 cities, 5 countries, and 3 continents. What does this say? In this changing technology and knowledge landscape—it’s important for us all, both women and men, to have more options and create a world where the odds of disparities are lower.
In Seattle, we hold monthly events where our members can hear speakers talking about their journey into technology fields. We also hold weekly coding workshops (Code Carrots), hackathons, and now Maker Parties. We continue to spread the positive messages around women in tech. We create a supportive environment for women. Though we are very women-centric, our community is not only made up of women; we welcome men to be on this journey with us too. Most of our Code Carrots mentors are men (evident of our current state of this field). It will take everyone’s efforts in helping make this a just and fair industry and community.
Though Geek Girls Carrots in Seattle is fairly new, as it started in January of 2014, we already have over 200 members. Our members consist of programmers, graphic and UX designers, IT managers, scientists, startupers, career-changers and people just starting with the technology field. And, of course, our programming mentors.
How did we make the Maker Party Pop-Up Seattle happen?
Maker Party in Seattle was just an idea that we had to “make things together”. In just two months we made this idea a reality!
We thought: What if we combined hardware, software, and education programs in a room to see what happens? Anything seemed possible. So we started to share this idea with maker communities, education centers, and our friends in Seattle. Soon enough, Sanda Htyte, co-organizer of GGC, brought in The Seattle Central Library and Pacific Science Center to collaborate for the project. These groups had already been talking to each other about bringing the Hive Learning Networks to Seattle, and because Sanda was a member of Hive in New York City, Hive connected them with her.
The Seattle Central Library was happy to provide us with their beautiful and conveniently located venue. Linda Braun, Youth Services Manager, and Amy Twito, Youth Programming Manager of the Central Library, said that the Seattle Public Library has been thinking about ways to hack their spaces so they’re more than just meeting rooms for corporate events or lectures. They want their rooms to be used more by the community for public events like the Maker Party so hosting one was a perfect way to spearhead their plan.
The Pacific Science Center (PSC) has also been doing outreach to get more children and teens involved and engaged in STEM. They already have programs like “Science On Wheels,” a mobile STEM workshop led by Eve Klein, Outreach Education Programs Manager. Eve Klein expresses, “I’ve encountered a lot of other informal learning efforts in Seattle, and I’ve seen that we’re not working together. There’s been a lot of independent efforts and not a lot of collaboration.” Having this in mind Eve felt inclined that PSC get involved in this Maker Party to increase collaboration and connected learning opportunities. PSC provided a pop-up “Basics of Binary” workshop for all ages at the party taught by Nicolette Neumann, Outreach Education Teacher.
What else? In June of this year, Geek Girls Carrots started Code Carrots in Seattle, an open, free and weekly programming workshops for beginners to advanced level. During Code Carrots participants work in small groups with a mentor who’s an experienced programmer or computer scientist. The Code Carrots framework turned out to be a perfect fit for the Maker Party.
Maker Party not only is about web literacy and connecting different organizations together; it’s also about building physical things, where you can make tangible stuff and be able to say, “I made this!” So when I contacted Rex St. John from Mashery (an Intel Company,) I knew he’d be a great collaborator. And he was. He put me in touch with Budi Mulyo from S.P.I.N. (STEM Paths Innovative Network) and Jigsaw Renaissance. On our first meeting Budi brought S.P.I.N.’s original project, RI/O Bot – Arduino based, moving robot using Lego Mindstorms. What a great workshop to have at the party for all ages and levels to build and program robots! It turned out to be hugely popular and brought smiles to the faces of all the Maker Partiers.
Rex also provided the Galileo boards from Intel and organized a quiz with prizes. Check out his blog about how his quiz fared. He writes:
“The challenge was a success with 17 participants creating around 20 different applications using APIs from Beats, USA Today and JamBase. Budi Mulyo from Jigsaw Renaissance and Sarah Guermond both took home Intel Galileo prototyping boards.”
Diana Pham, artist, author, and founder of DinoHulk.com, an online children’s book site, also joined us. At the DinoHulk station participants learned how to make physical buttons, GIFs and basic HTML/CSS. Diana definitely made Maker Party more fun and “Dino” for the kids. Diana, also a tech/programming educator at the Pacific Science Center, believes that teaching programming has to be fun, because if it becomes too difficult and arduous at a young age, they may be deterred from learning to code. Our Maker Party provided such a space, where learning is fun and challenging enough to keep the participants engaged and stimulated.
The Maker Party was also a place for startups to brainstorm their ideas and give “lightning talks,” quick 3-5 minute talks about an idea, startup, or question. Clarissa San Diego, founder of TasteBuddy, talked about developing a palette genome project and how her experience with food deserts motivated her to build the TasteBuddy app, to build and use a rich database of food preferences to inspire healthy eating habits and detect precursors for disease. DinoHulk’s Diana Pham also spoke about her journey to starting up her own online children’s book site and the motivator behind this.
S.P.I.N.’s John Madamba shared about the huge success of his local non-profit initiative because of its goal: to have fun teaching children! Especially when teaching programming through building robots. S.P.I.N. is a non-profit community based TechEd startup in Seattle that provides quality enrichment workshops featuring STEAM programming and leadership skills in low income communities serving at-risk and homeless multi-cultural youth. John also expressed how important it is for us to build a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) community.
The party ended with great energy where the participants had a chance to share out what they’ve learned—from a 6-year-old showing off his iOS-controlled robot to a 35-year-old who made a binary bracelet!
Geek Girls Carrots Maker Party Pop-Up took place over two evenings on August 21st and 22nd in The Seattle Central Library with over 50 participants – women and men, kids and adults. This was a great event and opportunity to meet new people, start your own adventure with programming, and meet folks with different backgrounds, ages and genders who could teach and learn from each other.
You can get involved too!
There are many ways to get involved. You can join Maker Parties happening in other cities or around the world—check them out here. You can also create your own Maker Party—a party can be one person or a whole auditorium full of people–here’s how.
S.P.I.N provides great workshops for children and teens. They are looking for participants, co-organizers and mentors. You can contact them here.
In Seattle, we have Ada Developers Academy, an intensive and immersive one year programming school for women who are looking to change or start their careers in software development. It’s a very competitive program to apply to, but they provide free tuition, a stipend and a support system.
And, of course, in Seattle we also have Geek Girls Carrots USA. We offer adults free, weekly coding labs and workshops. Children and teens are welcome too, as long as they’re accompanied by a parent or legal guardian (and please let us know ahead of time).
Kamila Stepniowska is a COO at Geek Girls Carrots, sociologist (writing PhD about computer culture – IS University of Warsaw). She is interested in human rights, education and Japanese culture.