SYDCON in the community. A recap of GEMS 2017 and Basic HTML education. Blog Feature

By: Jennifer Devitt on February 6th, 2017

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SYDCON in the community. A recap of GEMS 2017 and Basic HTML education.

Community

Computer Science Education. We’ve discussed the importance of it here on the blog before. We have also discussed the importance of attracting more girls and women to the field. As you may have read here before, SYDCON is a proud sponsor of school district 47 & 155, specifically for the GEMS (Girls in Engineering, Math & Science) program. I am honored to be a mentor within the program.

On January 28th GEMS hosted their 2nd annual GEMS Conference at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake. Last year, SYDCON was an expo participant. This year SYDCON was given the opportunity to host a session. When we were approached in the fall to be a presenter, I opened the opportunity up to our staff of developers to come up with an idea to engage middle school girls. Our newest staff addition, Joseph answered the call and suggested we teach a class on Basic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). I thought it was a great idea and invited Joseph to present with me. Joseph created the documentation and I was the guinea pig, taking the Basic HTML course myself to see how it could relate to middle school girls.

Bright and early on Saturday, January 28th Joseph and I met at the high school with 175 middle school girls, a group of high school mentor girls, parents and other businesses within the STEM field. Our youngest daughter participated in the event for the second time and Dave was her eager parent participant.  Coffee in hand Joseph and I made our way to our assigned computer lab to prep for the 4 sessions we would be instructing that morning. For our sessions, we utilized Code Academy HTML Basics. Joseph prepared a handout that the girls could follow along with and take home if they chose to continue at their own pace. There will be an upcoming blog post containing that handout soon.

In our four sessions, we had girls ranging from 6th grade to 8th grade. Each group was different and each group had girls of varying experience levels with code. Joseph and I greeted them, explained who we are and what we do and got to work. Each session was only 25 minutes long so, time was precious. Joseph walked the girls through the lesson, and we both walked around encouraging and helping them along the way. At the end of the session, the girls got to view the code they created live in a functioning browser! We were delighted to hear “I did it!” over and over. We were excited to see some girls excel and move ahead at their own pace, we were patient with girls who were new to coding and assisted them in finding small errors that were holding them back from the next lesson.

At the end each session we saw smiles and were pleased when girls took their handouts and said they were going to do more at home. 25 minutes is not a lot of time to introduce anything new to students. With this in mind, we wanted to utilize something they could continue at home if they so chose, which is why we chose CodeAcademy.com/ It is our hope that the session sparked interest in coding and some girls will choose to learn more. We look forward to continuing our relationship with the GEMS program as well as the high school Business Incubator class for the remainder of this school year and beyond.  Below I have attached a few pictures from the GEMS event.