In July, 43 girls, ages 8-12, descended on XANT’s Provo campus to learn how to code.
XANT hosted its annual Girls Code — an event designed to introduce young girls to computer programming and get them excited about the possibilities of technology. In true princess fashion, the girls were welcomed to the coding camp by dozens of XANT employees.
Ryan Breneman, one of those employees, also known as XANT Accelerators, made sure to volunteer some of his work time to help the girls learn.
“This is one of the best events of the year,” Breneman said. “It’s great to help these young children explore career opportunities they might never have considered.”
Girls Code, the inside scoop
On the programming side, the four-day event included diving into Scratch, HTML and Blockly. When they weren’t coding, the girls did unplugged coding activities that included making paper airplanes and sun catchers.
The girls were quickly introduced to how fun coding can be when they spelled their names in binary and then created bracelets using those binary-ordered beads.
One of the Girls Code participants, Faith, didn’t let having a short, five-character name ruin her fun.
“My first name was too short for it to fit on my wrist so I just threw on some letters from my last name,” Faith said.
Faith, a veteran from last year’s Girls Code, worked hard to program her cheese-stealing mouse to move from one end of a room to another inside of a castle.
Standing up from her computer she cheered, “I love coding!”
A major event
A special panel of five very accomplished women was assembled to address the young coders and answer their questions. Among them were accomplished women in the tech industry and some promising up-and-comers.
Megan McKeehan, one of those promising panelists, left the young future programmers with some advice: “Never give up on your dreams.”
Making an unplanned appearance was Jim Steele, XANT president and chief revenue officer. He told the girls in an impromptu speech that he hoped to welcome them back to XANT in the future — as co-workers.
The next day, it was XANT CEO Dave Elkington’s turn to address the giggly crowd.
He told the girls that Rubik’s cubes are solved using algorithms — just like the way computers use algorithms. With a sly grin, he commented that sometimes the company is a Rubik’s cube and it’s his job to find the right algorithm.
Women in tech
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, of all the computer and information system sciences undergraduate degrees awarded, only 18 percent were given to women.
Helping these young girls, and others, see the excitement in tech is one of XANT’s objectives. Girls Code is just one of several “Women in Tech” initiatives the company sponsors and hosts:
- SheTech Explorer
- Lego League
- UVU Prep
- Code.org’s Hour of Code
- Scholarships for women in computer science at Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University and the University of Utah.
The work is not done yet, however. XANT’s Do Good Foundation is actively considering other options and models that fit well with the “Women in Tech” initiative.
Modeled on a 1-1-1 commitment inspired by Marc Benioff and Salesforce, XANT donates 1 percent of employee time, 1 percent of company revenue and 1 percent of our product to worthy local causes.
The foundation encourages other organizations to do good in similar ways.
A fairy tale ending
All 43 girls confirmed they had found or renewed their love of coding — not that it’s hard for young girls to have fun writing codes that move a Disney princess like Frozen’s Anya around her castle.
The future is bright not only for these programming girls, but for all women in tech.
When asked if she’d like to come back next year, first-time Girls Code attendee Sawyer instantly lit up and shrieked “YES” while jumping up and down.
We’ll see you next year, Sawyer.
To learn more, feel free to contact Tema Laussen, director of the Do Good Foundation.