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Women in Computing hosts camps introducing middle school girls to app development

By Fran Broderick

Women in Computing (WiC), a Golisano College organization dedicated to augmenting and supporting the participation of women in computing’s various fields, held the second of two, week-long Android App Inventor camps last week as part of RIT’s Kids on Campus. The camp brought middle school-aged girls from various area middle schools to RIT for a week spent working with App Inventor 2, a program developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that helps users learn how to develop apps for Android.

“The more we show girls computing at a younger age, the more they’ll enjoy it and Kids on Campus is a great opportunity to expose them,” explained WiC Director Lana Verschage. The program received generous support from Google, who supplied students with Nexus tablets to develop and test their software, as well as additional swag like stickers and Legos. Using App Inventor 2 students were able to create games that used a range of Android functionality, including a game that involved tilting the tablet to control a ball’s movement and “Fast n Fit,” an app designed to track workout stats.

Verschage and information sciences and technologies lecturer Deborah LaBelle organized the event. Describing the impetus for the event, LaBelle said, “this [event] gives girls the opportunity to learn with other girls so that when they get to high school they’ll have a leg up, and they also won’t be intimidated by coding classes that are typically filled with more male students.”

Information technology student Chelsea Coates ’16 assisted with the event and echoed Labelle’s comments, saying, “I didn’t have any experience when I got into computing and it was really intimidating. So I feel that starting earlier will make you more inclined to pick a path in computing and stick with it.”

The girls seemed to enjoy their day, creating a wide range of apps. Miya, a middle-school student who created a game using characters from the Harry Potter universe enjoyed her experience, explaining, “I think I’m going to continue making apps at home. This was a lot of fun!”