Young female engineers gather, learn at Marquette’s Girls Who Code club

Jennifer Walter, Beat reporter

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The Girls Who Code club meet in Haggerty Hall weekly. Photo by Maryan Tunio /[email protected]

It’s a Tuesday night on campus and a group of young girls are crammed into the computer lab on the top floor of Haggerty Hall. They outnumber the amount of chairs and desktop computers, and the room is alive with conversation and excitement to start the new semester. For some, this is a familiar setup, and for others, uncharted territory.

Every week, the College of Engineering outreach department hosts a club to teach girls the basics of computer science. The girls are invited to Marquette’s campus where they mingle with members from all over Wisconsin.

Girls Who Code is an after-school club taught by Sally Lin, a graduate engineering student. GWC is a national organization that teaches middle and high school girls the fundamentals of web development and design.

“Some girls travel 30-plus minutes weekly to come attend the club meetings on our campus,” Lin said in an email. “Their dedication is really remarkable.”

With its doors open to participants from a range of ages and hometowns, the group has grown in its second semester on campus. GWC has 17 returning members with 46 total girls enrolled.

The meetings consist of three sections: lecture, presentation of examples and assignments and a chance to share past projects with the group. This final section of the meeting allows the girls to improve their public speaking skills.

“I’m kind of introverted, so it used to be kind of hard standing up and speaking in front of the class and presenting my project,” Mira Giles, a home-schooled seventh-grader in GWC, said. “It’s helped me get better with that.”

Lin said in an email the ultimate goal of the organization is to eliminate stereotypes often associated with engineering, specifically the gender gap between women and men in the field. The organization seeks to expose young women to STEM fields early so they can develop an interest before college.

Lin said she has seen an increased enthusiasm for engineering from the girls in the group.

“One of the girls told me that she wants to be a Marquette engineer when she grows up,” Lin said in an email. “Another girl told me about how she spent her Saturday looking at ways to 3-D print at the public library as a result of something we talked about in one of our meetings.”

GWC provides an educational and engaging outlet for girls to explore computer science and other STEM fields.

“I’ve always wanted to do something in engineering, but I didn’t know what path I wanted to take,” said Jade Xiong, an eighth-grader in GWC. “Girls Who Code has kind of made me want to go into computer science.”

“The reception and interest have been amazing so far,” Lin said in an email. “I believe that it will only increase from here.”