'App Camp' encourages girls to learn programming

The week-long program concluded with final pitches of apps developed by teams. KING 5 Technology Reporter Brian M. Westbrook reports.

There are camps for sports, science, outdoors. Now there's a camp for aspiring programmers and this one is just for girls.

Twelve campers learned what goes in to creating favorite smartphone apps during App Camp for Girls. A chance to gain valuable programming skills and connect with female leader in the tech industry, the week-long program came to North Seattle this week.

Participants gained software development and coding concepts during the camp.

Friday, three teams of four girls pitched their concepts to a panel of judges. The presentations included a demo, marketing ideas, competitive analysis, and even a look at their app's target audience.

QuizEra, created by a team calling themselves "H2O, Incorporated", was built for 10- to 25-year-olds.

"Because they have more free time," the team explained.

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Other apps demonstrated included a test to determine whether or not you are a couch potato and a quiz that figures out what social group you might belong to.

While clique-sorting CLASSify-U was created "just for fun," helping to close the gender gap is a serious goal for organizers.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) outlined the disparity between women and men in the technology industry in a report earlier this year.

Event organizer Kristina Sontag has witnessed this gender gap during 25 years as a software development professional.

"It's been an experience," she said. "I am very used to being the only woman in a room. Very often I walk in to a conference room and it will be mostly men and me."

"It's getting better," Sontag said optimistically. "It really has. Absolutely."

Programs like App Camp are helping bridge this gap by providing encouragement for young girls who may be interested in a technology career.

Maddy Lee plays soccer and is on her school's robotics team as a builder. App Camp gives her a chance to learn how to create software for smartphones.

"Maybe it will help me in the future," she said. "I'll maybe want to be in the industry and make games or apps."

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The next step for many of these new programmers might be to give back to the camp returning as an intern to mentor campers.

"I've seen a lot of eureka moments with the actual code pieces, that I remember having," camp intern Mew Hayse said. "Like not understanding what they meant when they're like connect this button. What does that mean?

App Camp for Girls founder Jean MacDonald has advice for anyone looking to understand how to create their own apps.

"Software is super creative," MacDonald said. "There are a lot of resources online to help you make an app and try your hand at it," she adds.

"Then find teachers that you like or a camp that you want to can go to and you can do whatever you want."

In its fourth year, App Camp for Girls has expanded beyond its Portland, Ore. roots. The Seattle version, run by volunteer Sontag, completed its third year.

Sontag compared App Camp for Girls to gender equality efforts in sports.

"I would love it to be the 'Title 9' of getting women in to technology," Sontag said.

  Follow KING 5 Technology Reporter Brian M. Westbrook on Twitter: @BrianWestbrook.

Copyright 2016 KING


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