Seattle is home to the first Ruby User's Group outside of Japan, Seattle.rb. Substantial hosts Seattle.rb's monthly talks + socializing + refreshments meeting on the first Tuesday of every month. On June 3rd we had the privilege of having Doug Ireton and his daughter Jane (age 7) speak to us about how to encourage girls' interest in IT.
Doug and Jane's talk was great, especially considering there was a power outage and they had to use a laptop for their slides and printed out speaker notes. The talk mixed general information about the challenges facing women and girls interested in tech with practical advice from Jane about which resources worked best for her.
For a younger child's first steps into programming they recommended the Robot Turtles board game. Jane also spoke highly of the Blockly visual programming language used on Code.org and with MIT App Inventor. They liked that Blockly introduces all the basic programming concepts (loops, conditionals, etc) without requiring the student to be a proficient typist. Doug cautioned that many kids struggle with dragging and dropping initially, especially on a touch pad. When I've done user testing at elementary schools we found that "travel mice" were easier for students to drag and drop with.
Finally, Doug and Jane told us about their latest project, an Arduino-based GPS tracking harness for their cat. At the time of their talk they hadn't collected any data yet but I enjoyed seeing the pictures of their steps into Arduino programming from making an LED blink to soldering to a picture of their cat wearing the prototype harness.
Doug and Jane will be giving the full-length version of their talk at the Velocity Conference in San Diego on June 26th. If you're attending go check it out.
At Seattle.rb a period of lightning talks (which we call Show & Tell) follow the main talks. After Doug and Jane's talk there was a lightning talk about Impostor Syndrome, another about how to protect a learner's first experience with a topic, and a few talks gauging interest in setting up a coding club for young people in our community.
Seattle.rb meets the first Tuesday of every month at Substantial for food, talks, show & tell, and socializing. All other Tuesday's we meet at Vivace Cafe for "Nerd Party," our weekly hack night. Nerds of all experience levels (and all ages) are welcome.
Image from Twitter.