Google’s Made With Code — an initiative which seeks to address the gender imbalance in STEM fields — had its moment in the limelight at Saturday’s Global Citizen Festival. Just before a set by Ellie Goulding, actress Priyanka Chopra introduced several of Code’s young members onstage before 70,000 attendees. During a video presentation that explained Made With Code’s commitment to helping young women use coding as a tool to bring forth social change, the festival stage’s high tech screens were emblazoned by the images created by the program’s students using code.
Hours earlier, girls who took part in Made With Code’s program gathered for a lunch at New York’s Sugar and Plumm celebrating their achievements before attending the concert. Over grilled cheese sandwiches, waffles and milkshakes, they reflected on their indoctrination into coding, which had them working with Google’s Student Experience Manager Errol King and others to embark on projects that included creating their own emojis.
“To be 100% honest with you, in the beginning when we first came I wasn’t quite into coding and stuff like that. By the time that we finished I felt like I wanted to start a career in it,” said Raisa Baraka, 15. Her sister Assata Baraka, 13, responded to the challenge that a Google employee’s tutorial on 3D printing presented. “I thought it was so cool because he explained to us how it works, how they made it, how long it took. It was really complicated. A lot of girls they decided that they would do the emoji or the 2D laser cut because 3D printing was so hard but I just thought, ‘maybe if you put your mind to it…’” she said.
Fifteen-year-old Judy Goncalves put a great deal of effort into her emoji, which changed its skin tone and hairstyle. “At one point I cried because I was getting so frustrated but I’m like people do this everyday. If they can do it, then I can sit here, suck it up and just persevere and create my product. That way I can be proud of it,” she said.
It was important to the Made With Code staff to not only provide coding instruction but to also introduce them to young women who had forged careers based on coding skills in the tech field as well as other industries. “The more that technology advances, most jobs that a majority of people in this world have involve coding, whether they know it or not,” said Raisa Baraka. “So for us to be able to go to a tech program and do stuff like that, it was basically preparing us for the real world.”