Tennessee Code Academy's 100 Girls of Code program teaches girls in Chattanooga

Tennessee Code Academy's 100 Girls of Code program teaches girls in Chattanooga

June 26th, 2014 by Alex Green in Business Around the Region

Coco Bennett, center, leans in and teaches computer code to Delaney Swann, left, and Ellie Swann at the 100 Girls of Code workshops Wednesday at the Chattanooga Public Library.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Isabella Poke, left, gets assistance from instructor Coco Bennett during the 100 Girls of Code workshops at the Chattanooga Public Library.

Isabella Poke, left, gets assistance from instructor Coco...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Hands are busy Wednesday morning at the 100 Girls of Code workshops at the Chattanooga Public Library.

Hands are busy Wednesday morning at the 100...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Tennessee Code Academy's 100 Girls of Code program passed through Chattanooga on Wednesday, luring 22 area 12- through 18-year-old girls interested in learning the basics of coding.

Katy Campen, lead instructor at 100 Girls of Code, said Chattanooga's turnout was the highest of the seven cities the workshop has visited so far this summer.

She said the program "gained a lot of momentum in Nashville," thanks to good press and exposure, and that high Chattanooga numbers were expected simply because of the city's growing tech reputation.

"We knew that today was going to be a pretty big day," she said.

There were only 25 spots available for Wednesday's workshop.

The goal of the one-day stop, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Chattanooga Public Library, was to give area girls a taste of the coding world and hopefully pique their interest, spurring them to pursue coding and computer fields after the workshop.

Campen said nobody expects participants to walk away fluent in code.

"We're just trying to expose them to what's out there," she said.

The workshop is targeted specifically at girls because nationally, the presence of females in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers is dropping, down to about 12 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Campen said female participation was much better going back to the 1980s, when females made up about 30 percent of employees in STEM fields.

"It's just been not the best place for women to work," she said, citing boys' club atmospheres in tech circles and long-held stereotypes that women simply aren't as good at science and math as men.

Seun Erinle, a web developer and graphic designer from Chattanooga, spoke briefly to Wednesday's participants and hung around to help with hang ups.

"I'm one of the few web developers who are female in Chattanooga," she said. "So seeing something like this is pretty amazing."

Erinle told participants that coding knowledge and ability are universally-applicable skills in most careers.

"You can really mix code in with whatever it is you want to do," she said. "I think it's really important to become creators and not just consumers of technology."

The 100 Girls of Code workshop will be in Cookeville today, and it wraps up by stopping in Knoxville on June 30 and Oak Ridge on July 1.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480.