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Local girls take on the world of technology

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Lucy Bates works on programming her Arduino board at Girls Who Tech. | Julia Tellman, Teton Valley News

DRIGGS — In a tiny voice, fourth grader Lucy Bates explained to me how to connect a light bulb with wires and a resister. Her Arduino board (a simple piece of hardware for electronic education) had five bulbs on it, blinking merrily to a program she designed on the computer.

We were in the back room of the Driggs library, with bulbs, wires, circuit boards, and all kinds of fun bits covering the tables. This was Girls Who Tech, one of the library’s new program offerings.

The Girls Who Tech program began as part of the national organization Girls Who Code, which is designed for teenagers who collaborate on complex group projects.

Younger girls have been showing up for the club in Driggs so facilitator Emma Ray is adapting the curriculum to better suit them. The library also renamed the club Girls Who Tech to deemphasize the coding aspect, because some people find the idea of coding inaccessible.

“It’s not just kids staring at a screen,” said Ray. “It’s super lively, it’s hands-on.”

Girls Who Tech meets every Thursday at 3:30 at the Driggs branch. Last week the girls built art bots, little motorized creatures that wheel around and doodle with markers.

“We’re not experts—we figure it out with them,” said Ray, who has a background in life sciences.

The purpose of Girls Who Tech is to create a comfortable space for girls to learn about technology. The gender gap in the tech field is getting worse. According to the Girls Who Code website, in 1984, 37 percent of all computer science graduates were women. That number has dropped to 18 percent. There is a significant drop-off in interest in and enrollment in computing programs for girls aged 13-17.

The library’s Tech Club emerged about a year ago. The kids in Tech Club work on all sorts of fun and creative projects.

When Ray tells people about Tech Club, she says their response is always, “I know a boy who would love that.”

“I think it’s fabulous for anyone to learn,” said Ray.

Teton Valley resident Alice Finley approached the library about starting a girls’ tech club and donated money for that specific program.

Librarian Susie Blair said that this sort of educational programming is the direction a lot of libraries are taking.

“I think we’re ahead of a lot of the big libraries,” she continued. “We’re really proud of our programming and our awesome staff.”

A couple of the librarians joined the group and arranged pieces on their basic Arduino boards. My light bulb went on when I plugged the board into a power source, and I felt a little rush of excitement. After all, on the inside we’re all just kids who want to play with wires.

 

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