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Education

Coding camp for girls has lasting impact

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  Where are the girls?

In computing, this is a big question. As one of the fastest-growing, well-paying job sectors in the United States, labor statistics tell us that women only hold about a quarter of the jobs. At many colleges and universities, even some where women outnumber men, the number of women seeking computing-related degrees is also pretty low. 

Audrey Smith knows. She's 16, and she's thinking she'll help change the playing field.

"I wish there were more women in coding. It makes me just want to try harder," she says. 

Last summer, between her sophomore and junior years of high school, Audrey went to a summer boot camp near Detroit sponsored by Girls Who Code, a New York nonprofit trying to improve the ranks of women in the computer world. In just a few weeks, she and 19 other girls built apps, websites and robots.  

For most of the girls, including Audrey, the boot camp was their first crack at coding. It hasn't been their last.

Audrey spent this school year in a web development class – one of the projects is running the high school's website. She's one of five girls in a class of 30. She's planning on majoring in computer science in college. She's also planning to spend a lot of time in front of the first laptop she's ever owned this summer. 

"I just love technology. I just love how much you can do with it and how much you control," Audrey says. 

As a result of the boot camp, two girls started coding clubs at their high schools in Bloomfield Hills and Hamtramck. One of the girls is on her way to Harvard University to study computer science. Several other boot camp participants are heading to the University of Michigan. One is going to Bowling Green. 

The future of girls coding in metro Detroit is pretty bright. While they can't offer another summer boot camp in Detroit right away, Girls Who Code is trying to start more clubs at libraries and community centers. The clubs will have tech professionals as teachers and a set curriculum. 

And maybe, more robots doing the Harlem Shake.