Hi there! It’s Kristi, a #TeacherWhoCodes at Pixar. I’m back for the last time this summer sharing my behind-the-scenes experiences of the Summer Immersion Program.
This was my second year , and it was the best way to spend my summer. Teaching is hard work, but I get to mold minds, encourage learning, be a role model, and experience firsthand the future innovators in technology. There’s no job that can offer more than that.
One of my favorite things about Girls Who Code is that I get to see how much students grow over such a short period of time: there were shy students who broke out of their shell; there were self-doubting students that gained confidence; students who liked to work by themselves learned how to effectively work with others.
I am also so proud of what my students accomplished in just 7 weeks. What’s more, serve to benefit society, whether it’s for social justice or raising awareness about an issue. These girls care about changing the world, and I am more proud of them for that than I am for what programming skills they learned this summer.
I am already looking forward to our reunions and learning what these girls accomplish in the future. Even if computer science doesn’t turn out to be the field they pursue, I know they all have the potential to do something great.
Hi! I’m Kristi, a teacher at Pixar and I’ve been sharing my experiences behind the scenes for the past 8 weeks. I’m sad to say that this is the final week of the Summer Immersion Program. It’s truly been the experience of a lifetime!
This was the last full day for the girls to work on their projects. We spent the entire day trying to perfect new additions to the final projects. The day went by incredibly fast because everybody was trying to get as much done as possible in the little amount of time they had.
The girls spent the morning testing and debugging their code and making sure everything worked as they expected. I made sure each group had their project on GitHub, and that the merging process went smoothly. They spent some time developing their two minute pitches that they would deliver at graduation. Then, they got a chance to practice in one of Pixar’s theaters!
Wednesday - GRADUATION DAY!
Wednesday was graduation day, the day the students were all waiting for! It was super exciting but also bittersweet. Everything went smoothly and it was so inspiring to see my students show off their final projects to their family and friends. I was so proud of them and their accomplishments.
We started wrapping up the summer. The girls spent the morning filling out surveys about their experience and I had them write a letter to their future self. I also talked about and how they can get involved with one. After lunch, the girls uploaded their final projects to the for everyone to check out!.
The the last day of the summer. Went spent most of the day in denial of that fact and instead have some fun. We spend the first hour playing Kahoot! with random topics. Then, Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar came to chat with us and answer our questions. We ended the day with the Good Thoughts Web activity, where everyone said something positive about another person. There were many teary goodbyes and thank you’s, and before I knew it, everyone was gone.
I had a great summer and hope you enjoyed spending it with me!
It’s already week 5 of the Summer Immersion Program! I can’t believe it!
If you’re just tuning in, I’m Kristi, a teacher for Girls Who Code at Pixar, and I’m back for week 5 of the . Here’s the inside scoop on what went on behind the scenes!
The students are learning Robotics - that’s right, Robots - and Arduino programming this week! This morning I let the students work in groups to build circuits that would light up LED lights. Then, Alonso Martinez, a technical director at Pixar, came by and talked about his work on Coco (computability and complexity) and brought his robot, Mira, to show the class.The students loved it!
I taught the girls how to create sounds on their robot. The highlight of the day, though, was the extra behind-the-scenes tour we got of Pixar. We got to see some of the animators’ offices, which were decorated elaborately in different themes. One person had even knocked out his front office wall and created a new wall made out of Styrofoam stones to give it an Indiana Jones feel. You could tell that animators have a lot of fun. We also got to see the “Rendering Farm,” which is the room with computers used to render scenes - generate an image from a 2D or 3D models. AND we also got to go to the roof!
We started class with a conversation about gratitude. With all of the new and exciting things the students are learning and experiencing, it can be easy to overlook the hard work and generosity put into it by others. The girls then wrote thank-you notes to different people they’ve met throughout the summer to express their gratitude. After lunch, Sean “Stoked” Stephenson came by to do a Web Development Workshop. He showed the students how to create a GitHub account and host their own website on GitHub pages.
Thursday was fun for two reasons: the girls got to make their robots move, and Jeff Stern, last year’s Pixar teacher, came to visit. In the morning, I talked about how to program the servos on the robots to make the wheels move. They spent some time writing functions for moving the robots forward, backward, left, and right. Then, Jeff gave his “Remember the Human” talk on UI design. After lunch, the students worked in groups to create a robot dance to the song of their choice. At the end of class, we had a dance party so everyone could show off what moves they programmed their robots to do.
It was our TA, Amanda’s, birthday! That meant it was her turn to be pranked! After the classic “empty box” gag, we surprised her with cupcakes.
Since final projects start next week, we finished the day brainstorming ideas and creating groups for our projects. I can’t wait to see what they create!
Are you interested in being a Girls Who Code teacher?
“Make it fun. Create something you enjoy with code!’ - Cassie Mahakian
Meet Cassie Mahakian, a thirteen year old coder, tennis player, musician, and self-described “girly girl.” Cassie recently won the and is looking forward to studying engineering at Erie High School in the fall. Want some words of wisdom from this awesome young #GirlBoss? Read the interview below!
Q&A with Cassie Mahakian
What was your dream job growing up?
I was very interested in music and wanted to do something around that.
Do you still want to work in music?
Yes! I’d like to combine engineering with music. Currently, I play the piano, guitar, and clarinet.
When did you start coding?
Why did you join Girls Who Code?
I had been doing Scratch for a while, but it was hard to find fun places to learn to code. interested me because it’s a whole class of girls supporting each other and cultivating knowledge. It’s a comfortable place to learn.
Through your Club, you won the Samsung App Challenge. Congratulations! How did that happen?
Last year, two girls I code with told me about a challenge where we could create an app wireframe and compete for a prize. We kept working on it and came up with an idea - MusikLearn. It enhances brain function for students through digital word games and music. The app targets students with dyslexia and autism but works for any student. Depending on the subject area and disability, the app helps students learn new concepts by connecting those ideas to sound and music.
What was the hardest part of learning to code?
It’s just getting started, especially when you’re learning a whole new language. It’s also hard just being in the minority - there just aren’t a lot of girls in most classes.
Is that why it’s important to teach girls to code?
I think it’s important to give everyone the opportunity to learn to code. Some girls might want to know how to code, but just think they can’t do it because of what other people say.
What advice would you give to girls who are interested in learning how to code or who are struggling to stick with it?
For girls just starting out, I’d say just go for it. No matter what happens, you’ll be learning something amazing. For girls who are struggling, try to find a way to make it fun. Just make something you enjoy with code. Starting out with a really hard program can be hard and not very fun.
Want to participate in a Girls Who Code Club like Cassie?
“I find it really helpful to embrace a stereotype and then put my own spin on it. I’ll admit I’m a huge “nerd”, but I also don’t view that as being a negative thing. I love coding and Star Wars, but I’m also a fashion blogger who loves to scrapbook and wants to learn how to surf.” ~Kaylee Llewellyn
We’re ending Teacher Appreciation Week with Kaylee Llewellyn, a fashion blogger, avid scrapbooker, Star Wars buff and a teacher who codes. In our Q&A with Kaylee, we learned about how she deals with stereotypes and her outlook on failure. We’re definitely going to take a leaf out of her book next time we fail!
Q&A with Kaylee:
Which of your recently used emojis represents you perfectly?
What’s your favorite piece of technology?
What made you join the Girls Who Code movement?
I love being a programmer and my biggest regret was that I was not able to get involved in coding earlier in my academic career. I was really excited to have the opportunity to get to share my enthusiasm for programming with other girls and help de-stigmatize women in tech for girls who are curious about getting involved with coding.
What was the hardest part of learning to code?
At first, I found it challenging to be very creative and logical simultaneously when coding. Programming forces you to think outside the box about how you’re going to solve a problem while also keeping you within the bounds of whichever programming language you are using. It took me a while to learn how to break down large problems into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Is coding creative?
I find coding extremely creative. Coding essentially sets up a task for what needs to be accomplished through a program and as the coder you’re given endless possibilities of implementing a solution.
Did you ever encounter people who stereotyped you because you code? How did you overcome that?
YES. As a half-Korean female programmer, a lot of people would chalk up my being a programmer to me being Asian. I make sure to emphasize the reasons why I personally love being a programmer and also make my interests outside of computer science known. Personally, I find it really helpful to embrace a stereotype and then put my own spin on it. I’ll admit I’m a huge “nerd”, but I also don’t view that as being a negative thing. I love coding and Star Wars, but I’m also a fashion blogger who loves to scrapbook and wants to learn how to surf. There’s always more to someone than a stereotype and I think it’s most helpful to flip those stereotypes on their heads to combat this negative attitude towards women programmers.
How has coding made you feel more confident?
I love knowing that I can solve just about any problem I want to. Coding teaches you great problem solving skills and that’s a skill that most people lack. It is great knowing that if I put my mind to something, I can solve any problem I want.
Tell us about a time you overcame failure.
I still remember the first time I’d ever failed a test. It was in AP Chemistry, and on the first test I scored a whopping 38%. My stomach dropped when my teacher handed back my test and tears came to my eyes. I thought there was something wrong with me because I’d walked out thinking that I had done well. After talking to my teacher though, I quickly realized that I many simple errors combined with his strict no partial credit policy had led to my low grade. The most important thing that I learned was that failures are just a part of succeeding. On the next test I rebounded very well. Overcoming failures is difficult because once they are in the past they cannot be changed. It is good to think of them as learning experiences rather than indicators of talent or self-worth.
What do you say to the girl that thinks that coding is not for her?
I’d say don’t give up! There are a wide variety of coding applications, maybe you just haven’t found the one for you.
Who is your role model?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from your mom?
Be brave and don’t be afraid of taking a leap of faith.
How does code tie to your other passions?
I’m a huge fashion blogger - which is a cool way to tie technology into my passion for fashion.
Interested in being a teacher for Girls Who Code?
“Don’t get discouraged when you fail, because failures build up to something and it’s well worth it that you continued.” - Natalie Wexler
Meet Natalie Wexler, a 9th grader from Chicago, IL. She is a journalist for Sports Illustrated Kids and part of Second City Improv’s teen ensemble. As if that’s not impressive enough, she’s also launching her own app within the next few months and is writing a book about failure! Natalie is learning to code in order to find ways to help people communicate and make the world a better place.
Q&A with Natalie Wexler:
What did you want to be when you were 7 years old? What do you aspire to be now?
When I was 7, I wanted to be a talk show host, rock star, designer, or chef! Now, I aspire to be an entrepreneur because I am interested in product development, marketing, and creative problem solving.
What made you join a Girls Who Code Club?
I am a member of my school’s business club - in fact, i’m the only girl - and we had an assignment to pitch different ideas for business. I thought of an anonymous communications app where people can talk about similar interests with no locations, names, likes, etc. My business club couldn’t make it so I decided to make it myself. I worked with a developer and also joined a Girls Who Code club because I want to be able to make something like this by myself. I also believe coding is the language of the future.
What is the hardest part of learning to code? Of being a woman who codes?
Learning to code is like learning anything new; the skills take time to develop and hone.
How has coding made you feel more confident?
I know that am developing a valuable skill. Coding is not only a skill that will be useful in my own life, but I know that it will be useful in future internships and jobs, too. It’s nice to have a marketable and valuable skill to offer prospective employers!
Why do you think it’s important to teach girls Computer Science?
I think that it is important for girls to learn computer science because we would be disadvantaged if we did not learn the languages of technology and the future.
Last week a woman commented on one of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook posts saying that she encourages her granddaughters to “date the nerd” because he might turn out to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg replied by saying that it would be even better for her to encourage them to become the inventors themselves. This anecdote illustrates some of the generational and gender gaps currently surrounding the technical fields.
As more girls that learn to code, the ratio of men to women will become more equal. The more girls that know how to code, the more able they will be to create programs and products that appeal to them. After all, knowledge is power!
What advice would you give to encourage a girl to learn to code.
I don’t think people should stereotype the people that code. Athletes can be coders. Dancers can be coders. Chefs can be coders. Improvisers can be coders. Literally, anybody can be a coder no matter what other interests they have.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to just try it! Coding is a very useful skill to have. If a girl learns to code, she can make the world of her dreams. Don’t get discouraged when you fail, because failures build up to something and it’s well worth it that you continued.
Tell us about a time you overcame a failure?
I failed to be cast in The Second City Youth Ensemble in the fall of 8th grade even though I had been part of the ensemble in 7th grade.
They cut me from the Ensemble! I was extremely upset but didn’t want it to defeat me. So, I called Second City and signed up for a class so I could get better doing what I loved. I was able to improve my skills through the class and auditioned again the next semester. Guess what? I made it that time! And the time after that, too. :)
How does coding tie to your passions?
I love comedy and making people laugh. With improv, you’re going out there and really reacting with what the audience is telling you to do. Sometimes my ensemble will mess up and break on stage, laughing. That’s what improv is about: trial and error. Each time we perform, the audience is different and reacts differently. It’s amazing being able to do so many different things and have the outcomes be so different.
In learning to code, it’s also about trial and error. I think coding is fun but it can be frustrating at times. Sometimes you’ll be working on a string of code for a long time and if it doesn’t work, it’s horrible! Coding is a constant puzzle. However, just last night I finished my first program and it was really rewarding to be able to see what I can make that actually does something.