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Westport Girls Rolling Deep Into Computer Code At Camp

A student at Westport Library programs a robot at a past workshop in March.
A student at Westport Library programs a robot at a past workshop in March. Photo Credit: Contributed

WESTPORT, Conn. — Girls at the Westport Library will be rolling deep into code this month.

Campers at the library's Girls Coding Camp will have the opportunity to make robots come to life — and may even be able to program them to dance to Adele, the pop singer known for her hit song "Rolling In The Deep."

The camp, which begins July 20 and designed for girls 8 to 12 years old, is nearly full. But Teen Services Librarian Jania Shaw told The Daily Voice there would be a waitlist.

The first few days will be spent learning Scratch, a visual programming language developed by MIT, which allows users to make simple video games.

Campers will then move onto programming the library’s Makerbot robots using a programming language called Choregraphe.

“It’s helpful for beginners,” Shaw said, however she noted, “they can go deeper with Python coding.”

Python is a high-level programming language — not actually named after snakes — but Monty Python. That language powers popular sites, including Google, YouTube and Instagram.

While the girls can work with the robots only in the library, they can work on the robot programming software on their home computers.

Shaw said her programs help girls build confidence and friendships.

At the beginning of past year's camps, many campers didn’t know each other and were afraid of breaking the computers. Some were even afraid of pressing the wrong button.

But by the end of camp, the girls connected with each other and learned to be more comfortable with the technology.

The programs have also inspired Shaw to tackle technological problems.

Recently, the library’s microfilm machine broke. Shaw tracked down the manual and fixed it.

“It’s the kind of thing that I wouldn’t have done five years ago,” she said.

Schools and libraries across the country have stepped up programs to get girls interested in the STEM fields — science, technology, math, engineering. Shaw herself said she dreaded tech education in seventh grade because the class was too male-oriented.

Shaw said she has received some feedback from parents who were concerned that the camp was only targeted toward girls. But she noted that during Maker Mondays — sessions where both boys and girls can program robots — girls only usually represent about 1 out of the 10 participants.

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