eTexathon(); encourages exploration of computer science

The STEM field has grown in popularity, intriguing students of all ages. On March 10, seniors Desiree Wang and Julie Chun hosted eTexathon():, an event focused on showing the beauty of the computer science field.

The event took place in Highlander Hall and amassed 80 people, surpassing their expectations. Attendees received Microsoft “swag bags” loaded with goodies as well as Circuit Playgrounds, a small microcontroller board with many sensors and LEDs that they could program from their computers and  tinker with at home.

At the event, activities focused around the Circuit Playgrounds. Attendees were asked to create a project based on two prompts. The first prompt asked them to make something that could help someone in an emergency situation, and the second asked to make something personal to their identities or cultures. Students who had never coded before were able to take part in the event and get an inside look to the world of coding. Wang and Chun hoped the event would provide a space for students who did not have the resources or opportunities to explore the world of code and computer science.

“We hosted eTexathon(); with the goal of providing a free opportunity to those who are passionate about computer science, as well as challenging the stereotypes that people have about this field,” Chun said.

Their desire to host the event sparked after noticing that students do not have many opportunities to apply their computer science skills to the real world. Although numerous computer science classes are offered at various levels of rigor, a chance to truly put those skills to use is not available. Additionally, there are students on campus who simply do not have the leisure of devoting an entire class period to a small interest of theirs.

“At eTexathon();, students were able to have fun with friends, work in teams, see the impacts of coding in the real world, and be able to explore their interest in computer science,” Wang said.

Hosting a school event presented a fair amount of difficulty. The event required a lot of help from IB CAS coordinator Cynthia Quintana, and funding as expensive technology was necessary to pull off all the activities Wang and Chun planned. Previous sponsorships fell through so they reached out to Microsoft with the help of the GHC outreach coordinator, Marilyn Koziatek. Microsoft came through and they, along with Girls Build, which is a a team of girls who focus on community issues by incorporating STEM principles, provided Wang and Chun with the necessary goodies to make the event a success.

“We could not be happier with the end result! Seeing first-time coders take precious time out of their weekend to learn coding for fun showed us that events like ours, which introduce beginner-friendly coding opportunities, are very important for future generations,” Wang said.

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