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Igniting Sparks of Interest with Black Girls Code

While there is currently no official Black Girls Code (BGC) Chicago Chapter, ThoughtWorks has partnered with BGC in the past to host events.  This year, ThoughtWorks Chicago partnered with EnglewoodCodes! and Black Girls Code to sponsor and host a Mobile App Workshop on Saturday, July 12, 2014.

Thanks to the support of more than 50 ThoughtWorkers and community volunteers, 30 girls ages 8 through 17 came to participate in an all-day mobile app workshop.

The workshop taught the girls basic programming concepts through an interactive app called AppInventor where programming logic fit together like puzzle pieces. The tool was simple enough for attendees of any skill level to participate, and it was surprisingly powerful and packed with features

While volunteers were around to provide assistance, by the end of the workshop these girls had moved beyond the scope of the curriculum and began customizing their apps and helping each other out.

Even though the girls had to endure the rain in the morning, they arrived with great energy and enthusiasm that made the experience rewarding and fun for the volunteers. The hands-on, interactive learning environment enabled them to create three mobile apps, with the ability to share their accomplishments with friends and family.

At the end of the day, the girls received a certificate of completion along with a goodie bag stocked with BGC and ThoughtWorks swag. But more importantly, they left with a fresh perspective on programming, met new role models, and created three personalized apps.

When polled on whether the girls enjoyed their time and would attend future events, every girl raised their hand. Following the workshop, volunteers and parents reached out to ask how they can stay involved and continue to encourage and their children to gain exposure to technology and the IT industry.

Although Chicago is home to an innovative and disruptive tech hub, south of the Loop lacks resources and support needed to nurture and provide real opportunities for young minds to pursue careers in the tech industry.

Following the success of the BGC event, we hope to continue to collaborate with our community as we build up our network with organizations like Black Girls Code and EnglewoodCodes!.  While ThoughtWorks sponsors numerous events to expose individuals to technology and create sparks of interest, we need to be better at providing more tinder and kindling to make a bigger impact and keep these sparks from being snuffed out before they get the chance to ignite.

We are looking into potential solutions to this dilemma. This may start in the form of hosting more consistent beginner-focused workshops within the community, or providing regular open office hours.  If you have a suggestion or want to get involved, reach out to us at: chicago-community-outreach@thoughtworks.com.

Listen to WBEZ's recent radio program featuring Black Girls Code and ThoughtWorks’ Jen Stille and Tracy Dantley.