Coding camp

2020 WiSE Coding Camp

Some photos from 2020 WiSE Coding Camp:

Summary of 2020 WiSE Coding Camp:

WiSE instructors, TAs, and organizers gathered in 2019 to begin preparing for the 2020 WISE Coding Camp. A camp specifically designed to encourage more girls to enter the field of coding. The class consisted of girls from grades 8-12 who need not have any experience before the start of the course. We met 4 days in total in January and February of 2020 and what a way to start of the new year! Our lead instructors were Olivia, Andrea, Tumi, and Shaina. Our TAs were Jonathan, Corey, and Julia. Our organizers were Deedee, Cassidy, and Rhonda. The class was structured in such a way that discussion, participation, and individual activities were encouraged. Our instructors with the help of our assistants helped guide lessons and then walked around to help students with their individual problems. We even gave homework! To keep the girls engaged while not in the course and spread their understanding out over more than 4 days.

In terms of the curriculum, or skills gained while attending this course, we went through a lot! On Day 1, we jumped right into coding python, by using variables, printing outputs, using booleans, and “if” statements. On Day 2, we dove right into using loops and solidified our understanding by creating an 8 Ball task. Students had to code a magic 8 ball, and some presented their programs to the rest of the class. Simply input a question and a response would randomly be selected for the person asking. And people soon realized there were multiple ways to create this type of program and that coding really can be used in a variety of different ways. On Day 3, we discussed while loops, array and array indexing, as well as string and string indexing. On Day 4, we had a huge review of everything we’ve done in the class as well as solving a problem related to scientific research, converting RNA into an amino acid protein code.

Hear from our instructors of the 2020 WiSE Coding Camp:

Andrea:

As a computational postdoctoral fellow at CSHL, I use coding to analyze genomic data that helps us detect trace amounts of cancer cells in the blood. I was first introduced to computer science in high school, and learned about its application to biology in college through undergraduate research experiences in bioinformatics. I enjoyed teaching at the WiSE coding camp, especially seeing the “aha” moments, and encouraging the girls to explore what they could do with coding in the future. 

As one of the instructors on the first day of the camp, I helped the girls write their first Python program in Google Colab, “Hello, World!”. We introduced different types of variables, and learned how to print variables and accept user input. After learning the basics of conditional statements, the girls took on a challenge to write a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” program. I joined the camp again on the last day, and it was fantastic to see the progress made since the first day. We learned how to use Python to encode and decode secret messages, and took on a final project to implement the Caesar cipher. Beyond learning basic commands in Python, the girls developed confidence in their problem solving skills that will be helpful in many of their future endeavors.

Corey:

I am a computational science analyst in a neuroscience lab here at CSHL. I use coding to study and analyze images of brain cells in mice. I started coding in college by taking an intro to computer science class my freshman year.

In college I also worked as a teaching assistant for many computer science courses and that’s when I realized I enjoy teaching computer science just as much as I enjoy doing it. So naturally I was eager to be a teaching assistant for the CSHL Coding Camp. My favorite part about being a teaching assistant at the coding camp has been seeing the excitement in the students when they are to get their code working.

Olivia:

How did you start coding?

I started coding at the age 6 using BASIC. Then I started coding more seriously during my Masters using Java and then make the final switch to Python by looking how my friend was coding an algorithm for NLP purposes.

How do you think that teaching coding to young girls will influence their career in the field?

Coding, traditionally, has been an underrepresented skill in the general education worldwide. Coding camps like this, offers the possibility to educate this skill and thus opening a potential avenue for girls to exploit.

Shaina:

How do you think that teaching coding to young girls will influence their career in the field?

I think the kind of course we are offering if really just about exposing them to coding and getting them excited about it. Hopefully it will make them less intimidated to pursue other classes in school or to learn more on their own.

Have you been involved in the coding camp for girls in the past?

Yup! This is my third year, I’ve co-organized and co-taught all three camps with WiSE!

How has the program changed?

We wanted to re-vamp the camp this year so that we could see more progress over time rather than the previous 2-day camp. The addition of homework this year I think has also helped to students to grasp the concepts much better. Also we switched from JavaScript to python.

Tumi:

How did you start coding?

I started learning coding the summer before grad school. I had no programming experience but knew that I wanted to do computational biology in grad school, so I took an online course (MIT’s Introduction to Programming & CS with Python on EdX.org).

How do you use coding in your research at CSHL?

I used in many stages of my project  For example, I have to download and process 1 million molecular structures, and having the ability to code really help automate the process. After I have the molecular structures, I used coding to build a model that predict how a molecule will smell from its structure.

What has been your favorite part about teaching the course?

When I did an exercise that taught students binary search through a guessing number game. It was full circle because when I interviewed for the CSHL PhD program, a professor quizzed me about it.

2018 WISE Coding Camp

WiSE outreach hosted a two-day introductory coding camp for girls April 28-29, 2018.  This event was designed for girls in grades 8-12 interested in learning the basics of computer programming.  Thirty girls from the Long Island attended, eager to learn from our instructors, three brilliant graduate students: Shaina Lu, Lizzie Hutton, and Elsie Gibson, who use computer programming in their research. Using the Khan Academy JavaScript live editor platform, they introduced the girls to the fundamentals of writing javascript code, including the concept of variables and if-then statements.  The girls then used what they learned to draw and animate a sun on javascript, which left a lot of room for creativity.  At the end, the teachers highlighted the applications of computer programming in science and discussed internet safety. This event was successful in exposing the girls to computer programming for the first time, and we hope they will continue to learn about coding through the free Khan Academy tools.

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